July 13, 2024

McLaren’s problems: only progress with the wind tunnel?

McLaren’s problems: only progress with the wind tunnel?

After Baku’s upgrade, McLaren fans already believed in a turnaround for the better. With the new undercarriage, Lando Norris would have raced straight in the points. But just seven days later, the hangover was back in Miami. Both McLaren drivers failed their first qualifying lap. Points have always been elusive in racing.

For team boss Andrea Stella, the bankruptcy did not come as a huge surprise. “There is a trend that is beginning to emerge. When track grip is high, our car improves. In Miami, the freshly laid asphalt was faster than last year, but grip was still relatively low. As a result, drivers often had to take their foot off the track.” Accelerator or brake pedal. Unfortunately, our car doesn’t do well in this situation.”

The telemetry data shows exactly where the deficit is: “If the grip is higher, the drivers can attack more. The drivers can then brake deeper into the corner and accelerate earlier. The rolling phase is shortened. This is what the car feels more comfortable and we are stronger overall.” direct compared to competitors.

© McLaren

Team boss Andrea Stella asked the fans to be patient. Progress does not come overnight.

Baku’s progress did not last long

In Baku, the asphalt was much more complicated than in Miami. Here the car was able to show its power on the brakes and in fast corners. The MCL60 also liked the short right-angle corners in the first sector, where the driver only had to let go of the gas and brake briefly, much better than the long bends around Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida.

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But problem areas were already evident in Baku, for example in the winding lanes of the old town. “The Baku upgrade gave us downforce, but didn’t change the basic character of the car,” Stella laments. “Unfortunately, it is not easy to address the problems. But we now know the problem and have directed our development towards it.”

However, it is not easy to eliminate weaknesses. The aerodynamics in long corners are difficult to simulate during development because the airflow in the wind tunnel always hits the car head-on. In addition, McLaren is still renting in the old Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne. This is the older generation model.

© McLaren

Excessive drag on the straights and weaknesses in the rolling stage in long corners cost McLaren time.

McLaren DNA problems

McLaren had been struggling with similar problems for years – even before switching to the new ground effect cars. Vulnerability to long curves is almost in McLaren’s DNA. “It may have something to do with the methods we use during development,” Stella suspects. Despite the significant change in the base, the evolution led to the same conclusion regarding the character of the car.

But the engineer hopes to have answers to the most pressing questions soon: “With the new wind tunnel, which will be available to us soon, we should be able to collect more representative data because the walls there can be modified. And hopefully we can get smarter in a few months, if we can compare the results of the first runs with the data of the last few years.

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But even before the new wind tunnel opens in the summer, the McLaren team is hoping to make progress. Fans must be patient. While the competition is already bringing big upgrades at Imola, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri will have to wait a few more races. “What’s coming at Imola was developed a month or two ago. We’ll bring some little things. But it’s not enough to score points again,” Stella tempers expectations.

The big move, which some also refer to as the B-version of the MCL60, must come before the summer break: “It will be divided into two races: Canada and England. We skip the race in Austria in between because” It’s a quick weekend. We have no confidence in the size of the package. In Baku we did it though racing because it was just lower body. As for the next upgrade, we’ll have to do some more redesign. That’s why we’ll get the full package debuting at Silverstone.

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