From the outside, the McLaren Brand Centre looks exactly as it was 10 years ago. Its position may have shifted towards the poor end of the Hungaroring paddock (thanks to McLaren plummeting down the constructors' championship in recent years) but the most noticeable difference lies within the team's travelling headquarters.
In 2007, the atmosphere was toxic. The 'Spygate' scandal had not only sent McLaren and Ferrari spiralling into a maelstrom of bitterness and recrimination the like of which has not been seen either before or since, but the accusation of espionage and its uncertain cause was also tearing McLaren apart from within.
If that was not bad enough, McLaren then imploded in a more predictable direction when Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso suddenly made public their mounting distrust and dislike by exhibiting individual but interlinked tantrums during Q3 in Hungary.
If you think F1 is complicated now, qualifying in 2007 took convoluted rules to a level that taxed even the most erudite commentator. The purpose of the regulation was simple enough. The fuel with which you started Q3 was the amount with which you would begin the race (prior to the first refuelling stop, of course). Once qualifying had finished, the fuel replenished would be a predetermined amount based on the number of the laps completed in Q3.
A driver's natural inclination would be to burn off as much fuel as possible in order to have the car at its minimum weight when fresh tyres were fitted for the final lap of qualifying. On the other hand, by being economical in the opening laps of Q3, that driver would have done the same number of laps, used less fuel than he was about to be credited for at the end, thus putting more fuel in the tank and having a longer and possibly more beneficial first phase of the race.
McLaren being McLaren, it was decided to be scrupulously fair by having their drivers share this tactical choice on rotation. For Hungary, it was agreed that Alonso would go first, drive flat out while Hamilton would save fuel by running slower during the first six laps. So far, so good.
It began to go pear-shaped when Hamilton was first on track - and showed no intention of letting Alonso through, claiming the Spaniard was too far behind. Alonso, miffed and feeling he had no alternative, went into economy mode. Hamilton then went flat out and had the best of both worlds -- or so he thought -- as he dashed into the pits for his final set of tyres.
There, he found Alonso, fresh tyres fitted and held by the lollipop. When given the all clear, Fernando continued to remain stationary in the pit box. When his teammate finally departed, Lewis got his tyres and rejoined a fraction too late to get in his final quick lap. Alonso was on pole; Hamilton second. Now the fun started. Except it wasn't funny.
McLaren had scheduled their usual 'Meet the Team' media debrief after qualifying. In the light of these confusing events on track, the Brand Centre was packed as journalists waited for an explanation. Ron Dennis, valiantly attempting to maintain calm and an impression of even-handedness, would actually make things worse.
Alonso, chewing a pear and staring straight ahead, sat to one side of the team principal. Hamilton's seat remained empty. It was revealed that Hamilton had failed to let Alonso through -- which was the first anyone outside the team knew of Lewis's uncharitable behaviour. It was then explained that Fernando had been held in the pit box for 20 seconds in order to allow his release onto a clear track. When asked if this was correct, Alonso gave a thumbs up, continued to stare straight ahead, chew his pear and say nothing.
By an unfortunate piece of timing, Dennis was called before the stewards just as Hamilton arrived at the briefing. With no team adjudicator present (the press officer was on holiday), the intensity of questions grew in direct proportion to the variation in answers from the drivers. The forum became heated, much to Alonso's obvious annoyance and Hamilton's mounting obfuscation. Watching with growing horror from the gallery above, McLaren's managing director, Martin Whitmarsh, dashed downstairs and brought the bloodletting to an immediate and merciful end.
The media may have thought they had most of the answers but, in fact, this episode would eventually exacerbate mistrust and suspicion as economies of truth were gradually revealed on all sides. McLaren became a place to be avoided unless you entered wearing a suit of armour.
This weekend in the Brand Centre, McLaren have become accustomed to the performance elephant in the room, employing as much good humour as might reasonably be expected under such trying circumstances. Perhaps Alonso and his team appreciate that any difficulties they have now are nothing compared to those laying waste to the very same place 10 years before. I mean, what's 90bhp between friends? Time is indeed a remarkable healer.