2018 is becoming more of a challenge than expected for McLaren, with both cars embarrassingly eliminated from Q1 in France and Fernando Alonso starting from the pit lane in Austria.
And while Alonso finished eighth in Spielberg, McLaren dropped down to sixth in the the constructors’, five points behind Haas and 18 behind Renault – whose power units it now runs, for a direct comparison.
In the first nine races, McLaren took double points finishes at three of the first four in Australia, Bahrain and Azerbaijan. Alonso scored four points for eighth at home in Spain, but results have been meagre since.
It’s a big contrast to the excitement the team showed following the launch of its new MCL33, the first McLaren ever to be powered by French marque Renault – following three nightmare seasons with Honda.
SOUNDBITE (English) ZAK BROWN,
“Well, we hope to surprise some people. But we’ve won 20 world championships before, and so everyone back at the factory certainly knows how to win races. It’s been a while, too long. And we think we’ve got the drivers, the package, to be very competitive.”
At the centre of McLaren’s troubles is an aerodynamic issue that the team has admitted it can’t detect in its windtunnel.
“We can’t try and solve it in the windtunnel because we can’t replicate the issue or issues, so we have to try and fix the issues at the race track,” said McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.
McLaren uses the Toyota Motorsport facility in Cologne, Germany for its aero simulation work, which is a highly rated wind tunnel and not at all to blame in the squad’s current woes.
… but more time is needed for the team to find the problem, using races as tests, before fixing it – with the 2019 car already in development.
And it’s the last thing McLaren needs, especially when it’s trying to hold onto its star driver, two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso – who began the season with such hope.
SOUNDBITE (English) FERNANDO ALONSO,
2-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“I think it’s an important moment for McLaren after a couple of years not winning the championship, or not fighting for the championship, it’s time to come back to that position.”
More solutions and less problems is what McLaren needs right now, if it’s to regain the momentum it began 2018 with.