Original McLaren-Honda domination took five years of hard work, says ex-driver Stefan Johansson

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Former F1 driver Stefan Johansson says McLaren-Honda domination of F1 in the late 1980s and early 1990s only came after five years of hard work and thinks the current situation is "not much different than it is today".

McLaren and Honda rekindled its partnership this year with much hype around its hopes of immediately challenging Mercedes. However, the partnership has been plagued with teething problems this year, with Fernando Alonso already writing off the 2015 campaign entirely as a test year ahead of next season.

Johansson, a former McLaren driver who drove the Honda-powered Spirit in 1983, says the team's years of dominance with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost came from the Japanese manufacturer's work in the sport before 1988.

"Everybody keeps talking about the "golden era" of the McLaren-Honda relationship when they basically cleaned up for a couple of years with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna," Johansson said. "What people tend to forget is that relationship didn't start until Honda had already spent five years in F1, developing their engines to what they finally became.

"The early days were no walk in the park. I know that very well as I drove the first car they entered in 1983 with Spirit and the scenario was not that much different than it is today.

"I used to joke at the time that I stopped doing all my physical training during the week because I got more than I needed on the race weekends with the engines blowing up in every session and I had to run back to the pits to get in the spare car to finish the session. Eventually they got it right of course, and then dominated before they decided to pull out."

Johansson's F1 career spanned 79 race starts between 1983 and 1991, during which time he finished on the podium 12 times. He drove for McLaren in 1987, the year before the team paired up with Honda, and was replaced by Senna the following season.

McLaren-Honda won the constructors' championship for four years in a row between 1988 and 1991. It also won four drivers' championships, with Prost (1989) and Senna (1988, 1990 and 1991).