James Key opens up on the upgrades that McLaren brought about in Barcelona and if those have helped the F1 team to move forward.

It wasn’t the smooth start to McLaren’s campaign under the new 2022 regulations where they certainly fell a bit behind to the Top 3 teams. They started the pre-season testing with enthusiasm, but brake issues hurt them hugely in Bahrain.

Since then, they have recovered well in the races with a decent haul of points to be in fight against Alpine for fourth place. While Ferrari and Red Bull are quite far ahead, they challenge Mercedes at odd races but the German outfit has built up a huge points lead.

The fight is direct against Alpine for fourth, where the French outfit is ahead by just four points at the halfway mark. From McLaren side, they are feeling a bit more confident after the updates they have brought in the recent races which they think have worked for them.

New parts, data –

Key: “The new parts are kind of a logical progression from the last big step that we introduced, which was Barcelona. Bodywork may look very different, but actually, it’s along similar themes. So, it’s all kind of an evolution, I would say, of where we’ve been. I think we got some really, really good feedback. I think it takes about one event to really dial-in something of that magnitude because its floors and other things as well. But the data backs up that it seems to be doing what we broadly expected. We’ve now got to set-up around it, which we’ll spend a bit of time this morning doing, and driver feedback was pretty positive. I think doing the back-to-back with Lando allowed him to really see the differences , and report the differences he could feel. Conditions, morning to afternoon, were pretty similar. And he came back with some really useful data on that, and then obviously run it all the way through to get the mileage and early feedback. So, so far, so good.”

Know what they want to do –

Key: “I think we all know what we want to do with our cars. It’s just the difficult bit is doing it. I think probably the better way to describe that is we can see what we need to do with the car. I think when you look at competitor analysis, you’ve here the driver feedback. Of course, we’ve got a tonne of data surrounding our car as well. We can understand where the deficiencies lie and link the driver comments to what the car is doing and where its strengths lie as well for that matter. But obviously, we attack the deficiencies as our primary goal. And we can see and sense what we need to do next.

“And probably, what the advantages is for… we’ve got two teams that have dominated this year, we can kind-of sense what it is they’ve got right from a set of characteristics and a certain type of performance. The performance you see from Red Bull and Ferrari is actually quite different but it results in a similar level of competitiveness. I think with a lot of analysis – and I think every team does it – you can get a sense of what you need to try and achieve and, taking where we are now, and with this update proving a few things as well, we can see where we need to head. Writing a brief for that is the easy part. Getting there, of course, is what we’re all trying to do, day in, day out.

Up and down year so far –

Key: “Yeah, it’s been a rollercoaster ride we didn’t expect and obviously we were not enjoying… you know, when we hit the more difficult circuits. I think, to be honest, there’s actually been a range of things there. So, certainly the car has been stronger at some events than others: strong in Monaco, Australia, Imola, as you said, very strong there. Weak at others: we had a very difficult Canada. I’m dismissing the first race because there were other problems associated with that. And sort-of average at other places. So, I think some of it is a learning process but I suppose the versatility, in terms of consistency really, isn’t quite there.

“Having said that – so very honest about where we are with the car – there’s been a few other setbacks as well. We had, for example, in Austria, an extremely difficult, unexpectedly difficult, first session, which was really the only session we had before we had to go into qualifying. I think without that, we could have gotten a little bit better. We had an issue in qualifying as well, unfortunately, we had the same in Canada: we had an issue in qualifying, which stopped Lando from progressing. So, although the car definitely needs to improve and become more consistent, there’s been other things as well, which has affected our season. And we’ve definitely left points on the table this year: there’s been more potential than some of the recent events have shown, I think.”

Changes on the car design –

Key: “Yeah, to be honest, we’ve had a downwashing bodywork on plan for a while. We potentially could have launched with that but for various reasons we didn’t at the time, and there’s several reasons for that, which I won’t go into. But yes, it was good to see that some other teams that approached it in a similar way to what we were originally thinking and we’ve got to the point now where we felt we could introduce it. There’s definitely sort of a trend, I suppose, of some of these flatter-sided sidepods – Ferrari really came in with the most extreme example of that – and then what you do at the back is still a little bit open, but the downwashing direction seems to be a good compromise for that.

“So yes, that’s where we got to. It’s been on plan for a while. And it’s good to see that it kind of tended to do what we expected it to do. And aero consistency-wise, I think certainly the car is doing what it should do. So we haven’t got, let’s say, mis-correlations going on with our car at the moment. It’s really a case of just continuing to chip away at the consistency of it rather than its correlation, trying to smooth out the bumps in the aero map and progress with developments in that way, which I think is probably at this stage as a regulations, a challenge that many teams face at the moment.”

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