until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

McLaren’s missed its development targets – and it shows

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

McLaren missed its development targets with the initial version of its 2023 Formula 1 car, Zak Brown has revealed.

At the halfway point of the only pre-season test in Bahrain, McLaren looks like it will struggle to match its expected midfield rivals in next weekend’s F1 season opener.

McLaren was already notably cautious at its launch, bordering on pessimistic, about its chances for the start of the season as it admitted to not being entirely happy with its launch car and placed an emphasis on early upgrades.

At the test in Bahrain, some familiar weaknesses have been observed trackside and although laptimes are largely meaningless, McLaren Racing CEO Brown has indicated his team does not expect to be as competitive as it hoped.

Xpb 1189705 Hires

“It’s hard to know until we get going,” Brown said on Friday in Bahrain.

“We know we set some goals for development which we didn’t hit. We felt it was better to be honest about that.

“We, like everyone, have a lot of development coming. So we are encouraged at what we see around the corner.

“But I think we will be going into the first race off of our projected targets and it’s hard to really know where that means we’ll be on the grid.”

Trackside view

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Two Sakhir, Bahrain

While some of the midfield cars have already produced encouraging signs trackside, the McLaren is not one of them.

It looks inconsistent and difficult, in a way reminiscent to the MCL36 that often vexed Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, at both low and high-speed. This is consistent with a comment Oscar Piastri made today: “The limitations are similar to last year.”

Watching at Turn 10 across the first evening and the second afternoon, it is clear that Norris is finding the car a handful. It arrives less poised than almost any other car and has to be wrestled to the apex.

The temptation is to conclude the McLaren is running on high fuel, as that would at least mitigate the worst of what we can see. Brown indicates this was the case on Friday, with Norris focused on long running.

But that should be taken as a minor comfort, as so far the on-track evidence – limited as it may be – is beginning to confirm the suspicion that McLaren will start the season on the back foot.

The downplayed expectations for the start of the season follow a year in which McLaren slipped behind Alpine to fifth in the constructors’ championship.

It meant 2022 was the first time since 2018 that McLaren did not finish as the leading non-Mercedes/Red Bull/Ferrari team.

However, alongside the caution at the launch, McLaren’s senior personnel and drivers expressed confidence the team would be able to develop its way into lead midfield contention by the end of 2023.

Brown reiterated that at the test on Friday, when he said: “We want to be in the top four [in the championship] by the end of the year.

“Last year was a bit disappointing.

“Our aspirations are to get back to the front, we know that will take a little bit more time, all the technology infrastructure is either in or going to be pretty much completed this year.

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Two Sakhir, Bahrain

“So that’s quite exciting. And we have some good developments coming, but so does every other single team in Formula 1.

“So, we need to pick up the pace.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks