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Formula 1

An extra benefit to McLaren’s imminent new F1 windtunnel

by Josh Suttill, Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

McLaren’s current Formula 1 facility deficit has been well-documented, particularly during a 2023 pre-season that has lowered the expectations of the team for the forthcoming season.

The team admitted after the launch of its new MCL60 that it wasn’t “entirely happy” with its initial 2023 design and it’s already banking on some early-season upgrades to lift it up the pecking order.

McLaren will partly attribute its tricky winter to the fact it’s still using its very first F1 simulator and is relying on Toyota’s windtunnel in Cologne – “well out of date compared to the state of the art”, according to McLaren technical director James Key.

Work is underway on an all-new simulator and a windtunnel at the team’s Woking base but that won’t have an impact on McLaren’s designs until the 2024 F1 car.

McLaren Technology Centre F1

But McLaren’s facility deficit isn’t just about a deficiency on the development side of its F1 cars, as there’s also an important financial element to consider too under F1’s cost cap.

With F1’s cost cap falling to $135m per year for the next three years from 2023, teams are keen to ensure they’re spending their budget as efficiently as possible.

“We’ve got top technology on its on its way that will be here shortly,” McLaren CEO Zak Brown said at the MCL60’s launch.

“And I think once we’re able to get that technology in place that’s going to allow us to [remove areas] where we had some financial inefficiencies – you can imagine when you’re renting a windtunnel, you’re paying more for your windtunnel than if you own it.

McLaren F1 windtunnel

“So that’s a small example of economics that we can then redistribute somewhere else within the racing team.

“So, I’m very excited that over the next couple of years, I feel we’ll have everything in place to be fighting at the front.

“Of course we have to execute, but there isn’t anything on the road map that I feel is missing come 24 months from now.”

Brown and new team principal Andrea Stella were quick to stress they’re satisfied with the team’s technical direction and are confident having the right technical equipment is the missing piece of the puzzle.

“By having our own, we save quite a significant amount of resources that we want to re-invest in expanding the team,” Stella said.

“So, if I can see that the lack of windtunnel and ultimately, the size of the workforce, I think McLaren have been doing a competitive job in the past.

“So, allow me to use these two factors to say that we are very happy with what’s happening on the technical side.

“And now it’s more up to us to provide the technical side with the right equipment and the right team power to actually be able to compete at the front.”

McLaren MCL60 F1

Brown reiterated that he’s “very happy” with the job Key, operations director Piers Thynne and Stella have done and stressed it was a deficiency of facilities, not personnel.

“There is a very high level of engagement, a lot of energy, a lot of after-hours work,” he continued.

“And yeah, I think we have identified the shortcomings of last year’s car and worked hard to tackle it on this year’s car.

“As Andrea said, we got most of it right, there’s still a couple of areas to work out where we want to be, but we’ve got all the confidence in the word of James.”

Stella expects the new windtunnel to come online partway through the 2023 season and its benefit won’t be limited to the 2024 car.

“I would like to remind the importance of getting the new windtunnel to come to fruition, which should happen around mid-year,” Stella remarked.

“That should be a step for many reasons, not only the fact that it improves your methodologies.

Andrea Stella Lando Norris F1 McLaren

“There’s also the new simulator coming, we have a new manufacturing facility. So large investments that should come to fruition mid-year.

“This should be an extra boost in this race to become top four overall in the season and hopefully race for more.”

Last year Alpine denied McLaren a place the top four of the constructors’ championship for the first time since 2018.

Stella says McLaren’s target is to “establish ourselves as part of the top four” in 2023 and acknowledged the “realistic short-term” goal is to have the fourth fastest car.

He expects the “good developments already in the pipeline” to allow the team to make a “decent step forward” when they arrive in the early part of the season.

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