The first points of the season, earned by Lando Norris last weekend, probably came as a consolation to McLaren fans, but not for the team itself: they really assess the complexity of the situation.
This is the worst start to the season for McLaren since 2017: after the first two races, she has only six points. And if last season at least one car of the team necessarily reached the final qualification, then in 2022 we have not seen it yet.
McLaren has two main tasks: the racing team, together with the pilots, must try to do their best, even in such a difficult situation, using every opportunity, and Woking-based specialists need to understand the shortcomings of the MCL36 and find the best way to fix them.
Other teams that have not started the season in the best way, such as Mercedes and Aston Martin, make it clear that they have to apply settings that do not allow to fully unleash the potential of technology. The reason for the forced compromise is the destabilization of the car at high speeds, the same swing that appeared in the pre-season tests, associated with the peculiarities of aerodynamics, ie. with a ground effect.
As soon as we can deal with this phenomenon, speeds should increase. But it seems that in the case of McLaren, the problem is different: during the development of the MCL36, the team’s engineers focused on a certain level of chassis efficiency, which may even have been achieved, but rivals set the bar obviously higher.
“Ultimately, we have to admit that other teams have done better than us in the off-season,” said Andreas Seidl, team leader. “That explains why we’re in this situation.” That’s what we quickly recognized within the team.
It is important to understand this very clearly and try to use dissatisfaction with yourself, translate it into useful energy and get it back as soon as possible. “
McLaren says that the car lacks aerodynamic efficiency, as well as mechanical traction, which provides the chassis, but prefer not to specify what exactly went wrong in the process of creating the chassis. Either the team failed to reach the required level of downforce, or simply this level was initially not high enough, which was manifested only in comparison with the technique of rivals.
The situation was further complicated by the need to correct the shortcomings in the fire department, which regularly caused problems with overheating of the brakes in tests in Bahrain.
As a result, McLaren had to spend resources to eliminate this problem, instead of immediately looking for speed reserves. As a result, the MCL36 is now likely to be firmly established in the second half of the peloton, and it is unlikely that the team will be able to claim high results until the car is significantly improved.
Of course, Lando Norris’ 7th place in Saudi Arabia is already a cause for cautious optimism, but McLaren prefers not to be deceived. On the one hand, Andreas Seidl noted that the team “managed to make up for what was missed in the tests” in Bahrain and make greater use of the potential of the car, on the other hand, it is possible that this is primarily the configuration of the highway in Jeddah, suitable MCL36 much better than Bahraini.
“There is a lot of work ahead, but not much positive. But if we have to perform on tracks with characteristics close to the Saudi, we can expect that we will be more competitive there, – said Norris. “But I’m not sure we’ll be able to perform well on relatively slow tracks.”
Of course, the team is encouraged by the result of Norris, and the fact that Daniel Riccardo could also earn points, but he was unlucky – the technique failed.
However, it should be understood that in Jeddah McLaren helped assemble several cars, which also claimed a place in the top ten – at least Alfa Romeo Valtteri Bottas, Alpine Fernando Alonso and AlphaTauri Yuki Tsunoda. The team is well aware of this and is well aware that the desired level of results, which everyone expects from McLaren, is still very far away.