McLaren targets championship within next five years

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McLaren boss Zak Brown believes his team is on a path back to the front of the grid but is refusing to set specific targets for 2019.

McLaren finished sixth in 2018 but failed to make the progress it had expected ahead of the year having switched from Honda to Renault power. During the season, it parted company with racing director Eric Boullier and started an extensive rebuilding process of its entire Formula One operation.

The team has not claimed a victory since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix and has not been on the podium since the opening race of 2014. Fernando Alonso will not drive for the team next year, with rookie Lando Norris tasked with helping the team's rebuild alongside Spaniard Carlos Sainz.

Earlier this year, Brown admitted that a return to success is a long way away, but he has now put a timeline on when he hopes the famous team will be back to winning ways.

When asked when he anticipated McLaren would be back at the front of the grid, he said: "I have just presented a five-year plan, and within that plan, we think we have a journey to get back to winning races, and then once you're winning races, you're competing for the championship.

"I think it's critical that Liberty makes changes to the sport because, right now, the way the sport is going, it's difficult for more than two or three teams to compete for the championship, so I think there are things that are out of our control, but hopefully we can influence that need to change for multiple teams to be able to win races and compete for the championship.

"We have laid out a journey and investment, a road to recovery that sees us getting back to the front of the grid in that timeline."

McLaren came into 2018 talking up its chances of challenging for podiums during the season. Brown does not want to do the same ahead of next season.

"I think we want to stay away from making predictions. We know that it hasn't been pretty for the last couple of years, so we don't want to make that mistake again.

"I would say our expectation is that we will continue to make a step forward. ... We had 15 [grid-place penalties in 2018] as opposed to a few hundred, so this year was a step forward, although not the step forward we had hoped to make.

"So our expectations are that we are going to continue that journey in 2019, but I want to stop short of saying where that will be in the constructors' championship. I know where I hope to be, but I don't know where we will be until we hit the ground running."