McLaren chief Zak Brown says the team is working hard to ensure their car is reliable during the pre-season test which will help them work on performance.
For the last few years, McLaren has had a terrible time in the pre-season tests with reliability pulling them down whether it was for the engine with Honda or other teething problems during that time and also last year with Renault.
The issues meant that most of its time was devoted to fix the reliability with less attention on the performance of the car. But with the 2019 season approaching, Brown hopes that is not the case this time around as they work on reliability in the off-season.
When asked how critical is the eight days of testing for McLaren especially with two new drivers, Brown quipped, ‘wish we had more testing’. Elaborating the point, he added: “I don’t have any concerns over the drivers getting upto speed in that short period of time.
“The testing is much about car as much as it is about the drivers. It is the same for everyone, so were not at a disadvantage because everyone gets eight days. We just hope the car comes out reliable so that we can focus on performance as opposed to reliability.
“It was one of our problems in 2018 as we had reliability issues from the word go, so you didn’t get the mileage in. I was [actually] surprised that we were as reliable as we were at the start of the year given the lack of reliability we had in testing.
“So, we’re doing some things differently in the off-season to try and be as reliable as possible, so we can focus on performance come Barcelona testing.” As mentioned earlier, not only will McLaren have to deal with reliability but also two new drivers.
Even though Lando Norris has been in the set-up for a while, he still has to learn the nuances of working with the engineers and extracting the most. It should be easier for the more experienced campaigner Carlos Sainz, but he still needs to gel with the team.
While the British driver drove in free practice sessions in 2018 and also various tests, Sainz also had his first taste of the team and the car in the Abu Dhabi test which was used by the team to get him accustomed as much as possible.
“Carlos is very focused as Lando,” he said on the line-up. “I think everyone is excited. We have two new drivers and we bring some excitement on the grid. As I said, we are all excited for Australia and very committed in what we have to do.”
Besides the drivers, the team will have some new faces in the management as well with Pat Fry returning to the fold and James Key joining in after his gardening leave from Toro Rosso – the latter though will not have a bigger influence on the 2019 car.
The date for Key’s joining the team is not certain yet but he will at some point in 2019. “Of course you would rather have James working for us now, obviously we have recruited him because we think he is immensely talented,” said Brown.
“However, we knew that was going to be the case [that he joins late]. Pat Fry and Andrea Stella and the whole design team are working really well together. This is part of a recovery journey, and with that, it is getting the right people in place.
“That doesn’t happen overnight. We are excited for him to start [soon], but he has had no input or communication as it relates to the 2019 car.” It remains to be seen how McLaren does eventually, but Brown hopes they can be competitive from the word go.
[Read: Carlos Sainz on Lando Norris]