McLaren is focusing on three main areas to ensure it is ready when the 2020 Formula 1 season begins with the Austrian Grand Prix, says team boss Andreas Seidl.
The July 5 race at the Red Bull Ring will kick off the championship more than four months after pre-season testing finished because of the hiatus sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teams have spent the majority of that time observing national lockdown and F1-specific shutdown measures, and only returned to work this month with several members of staff still not back at their respective factories.
Race teams will travel to Austria in just over a week’s time, and be on the road until the end of July as the season begins with a Red Bull Ring double-header then the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Seidl said in a McLaren video that “we have three main areas where we are working on”, which are McLaren’s production activity, development work and race team preparation.
“We are bringing back people to the MTC [McLaren Technology Centre] in a phased approach, having all these new measures in place of social distancing,” said Seidl.
“It’s very important now that we ramp up production as quickly as possible to 100% again because as you can imagine, doing eight races in 10 weeks you need to have a lot of parts ready to be prepared in case we have accidents or in case we have parts failing to make sure we get through these race weekends as clean as possible.”
Mercedes has recently indicated that the “headache” of running out of parts is a very real risk without proper planning.
There is a balance to be struck between not having enough spares and spending time and money producing parts that will not be used.
This will also need to be managed alongside having enough production capacity to roll out any upgrades.
Teams will have conducted development work prior to the season’s suspension and factory shutdowns that should have resulted in parts being tested and created during the early stages of the championship.
That is likely to result in a mix of teams either bringing the same car to Austria they had for the cancelled Australian Grand Prix, then potentially rolling out upgrades, or racing a car with some developments already applied.
Seidl said McLaren’s technical director James Key is “fully up to speed again with his engineering team”.
He added: “That is still working from home in order to make sure we keep going and we try to beat the competition on the development side. I’m happy with what I’m seeing there.”
Seidl also said McLaren has devoted a lot of time to ensuring its race team is ready to go in Austria.
Unlike some teams, McLaren will not work in a live environment prior to the Red Bull Ring opener because it has not tested an old car or had a filming day to use with its 2020 machine.
Midfield rivals Renault and Racing Point have already hit the track, while AlphaTauri is planning to do the same.
Seidl revealed that McLaren has already separated its race team from the MTC “to make sure we go in this bubble as early as possible”, a reference to F1’s new safety protocols meaning teams will need to isolate from one another in Austria and continue to operate in specific groups.
“We’re doing a lot of work at the moment in order to be ready for Austria,” Seidl stressed.
“There will be a lot of new procedures in place in terms of social distancing as well, wearing all these face masks, in order to be to be safe.
“We spend a lot of time on that, we are preparing the cars, of course.
“And last but not least, we’re doing a lot of pitstop practice as well, in order to be ready.”
“Could you describe the conditions around the track at the moment please?” pic.twitter.com/mo9FH3zpvl
— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) June 19, 2020
McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr have at least returned to the track in karting and Formula 3 machinery.
They have also returned to the McLaren F1 simulator as well.
“I’m quite optimistic that we will definitely be ready to take up the fight again from Austria onwards,” Seidl said.