Kevin Garside: How McLaren would love to be contenders again on the waterfront at Monaco

The Way I See It: Monaco is the race they all want to win and a dispiriting place to fail

What a tip-top few days it has been for McLaren devotees. The association with Honda, which fired the team's golden Ayrton Senna-Alain Prost period in 1988, is resurrected and the date is set for the release of "Rush", the James Hunt biopic, which tells the story of the blond one's championship-winning year in 1976. All this and Monaco, too. Yes it's Grand Prix week in the Principality. How McLaren could do with a triple dose of good news on the waterfront.

A sunny place for shady people is how Somerset Maugham loftily dismissed it from the neighbouring perch of Cap Ferrat, from where this sneering son of the Establishment wrote his way into the English literary canon while simultaneously setting the cultural agenda suitably removed from the grubby social climbers in Monte Carlo.

There is much about the annual Grand Prix carnival that would have driven Maugham mad, not least the presence of Riviera Man, parading around the harbour in Gucci loafers, blazer and Hermes cufflinks with a high-heeled nubile half his age strapped to his arm, but he could not but have admired the authenticity present in the drivers.

McLaren's record here blows everyone out of the harbour with 15 victories to Ferrari's nine. It was here in 1966 that the team made its F1 debut, clocking up more wins since than any other marque. The chances of a 16th Monaco triumph is non-existent on paper, but if the weather is anything like it was at the Cannes Film Festival last week and the rain falls, there is a notional chance of victory that, arguably, is not possible anywhere else.

The test is not one of out-and-out speed but of precision. When those old Bugattis first diced around these tight, twisting streets in 1929 they had nothing like the speed or grunt possessed by today's prototypes, which makes the experience even more ridiculous. This place would never see the light of day on a designer's drawing board; too many walls, nil run-off area – which adds massively to the appeal.

Nowhere else on the sanitised calendar can you gain a real sense of what these boys are about. Stand at the entrance to the swimming pool section and watch the back end twist and leap out of shape as the drivers seek maximum use of the tarmac while staying out of a wall. And the noise. All those beauties on boats moored trackside diving for cover while trying not to spill the champers on the Chanel. Love it.

There is no escape either for the punters enjoying the balcony experience when the cars rip out of the pits with the hammer down into St Devote. The acceleration through the heavily shaded, narrow stretch is like little else in sport. You don't have to get cars to acknowledge the sensory overload, profound enough to have your fillings out.

McLaren is every bit as much the F1 jewel as Monaco, but in serious need of renewal. Though the formbook is heavy with success, the good days are receding ever deeper into the past. The last drivers' title was delivered by Lewis Hamilton five years ago. McLaren would have won the year before were it not for the cataclysmic Spygate controversy, when a dossier of Ferrari designs was found in the possession of a senior McLaren engineer, resulting in their disqualification from the constructors' championship and the loss by a point of a drivers' title for the taking. Before that we go back 14 years to Mika Hakkinen in 1999 for a championship crown. If second is first of the losers, as owner Ron Dennis always maintains, then by definition the team he acquired more than 30 years ago has gained unwanted expertise in this area.

His chosen successor as team principle, Martin Whitmarsh, is under increasing pressure to deliver, yet at the end of last season he allowed Hamilton, his best chance of success, to walk to Mercedes for a few dollars more. Not that Hamilton could have made much difference in a car way off the pace. Respected designer Paddy Lowe has also left the building to take up a senior post next year at Mercedes.

There have been rumours, denied by Dennis, that he wants back in the paddock to take control of the team. Clearly something needs to happen to stop the bleeding. The arrival of Honda as engine partner coincides with a shift in power train specification next year, effectively tearing up the present design template and starting again with a blank canvas. The change cannot come soon enough for Jenson Button and Sergio Perez.

Monaco is the race they all want to win, where the big sponsors turn up, where teams like to demonstrate sporting prowess while basking in the association of serious corporate muscle. It is a deeply dispiriting place at which to fail. Button took his maiden Grand Prix victory in a rain-sodden lottery in Hungary seven years ago. He must hope the variables are with him again, that the chips fall his way in Casino Square.

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own