McLaren aim to close gap to rivals by Spanish GP

2014 F1 season

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McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says they aim to cut the performance deficit to their rivals by the fifth round of the season in Spain in May.

McLaren head the constructors’ championship following the first race of the season but were not the fastest cars on the track in Melbourne last week.

Nico Rosberg won the race for Mercedes and appeared to have a significant amount of performance in hand.

“It’s true that in their car they have some pace,” said Boullier. “We believe it’s maybe between half a second and three-quarters of a seconds faster than the rest of the field.”

Boullier said McLaren had prioritised building “a solid and reliable car” in winter testing. “We believed that reliability was key to take some big points at the beginning of the season.”

However Boulleir said there are teams besides Mercedes that McLaren has to catch up on: “It’s true that we are now pushing very aggressively on the performance development.”

“We need to catch up the gap with Mercedes and also some others because some other teams have not performed well so far but they clearly have, once the power unit will be delivering the full power, they will be also very fast.

“And I think the target for us the target is to catch up by Barcelona, the build-up of the first few races in Europe.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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31 comments on “McLaren aim to close gap to rivals by Spanish GP”

  1. Whenever a team principal says a certain team has an advantage of x seconds over the rest, one should divide x by 3 to get a realistic statement.

    1. Hmm, yes, I understand. But Boullier mentions 0.5 to 0.75 seconds above, and I actually think that’s fair at worst, and an understatement at best. Considering Rosberg flapped at Lap 19 with quite some fuel left in the tank, AND he did this in the immediate lap after the SC peeled in, I think the performance advantage is closer to one full second, if not a bit more.

      1. I stand by what I said before and after the Australian GP. The gap Mercedes have is closer to a second…

        1. I think it could actually be more than a second, at least at Albert Park. That’s a inquest track though so let’s see where things stand in Sepang.

  2. I don’t think McLaren have a huge amount to be worried about this year. The car seems decent and they have 2 drivers who look like they’ll be able to snaffle plenty of points. Combine that with McLarens ability to develop and the fact that this is an engine/sponsorship bridge year for them you’d have to say they’re looking OK. Not championship OK but definitely non disaster getting podiums and possibly a win OK.


    1. I don’t think that’s OK. I doubt Ron does either. The whole point is that what you described is pretty much all they’ve done since 2008,- produce a decent car, and get points almost every race. But where’s the WDC or WCC to show for it. Ron won’t be happy with what appears to be more of the same. Obviously it’s very early days, but with at least two teams aheaad of them, it just looks like the last 5 or 6 years all over again for McLaren.

      1. I know but it’s still better than being in a long term decline like Williams were.

      2. Not ‘the last 5-6 years’. It’s ‘the last 15-16 years’. Remember, as far as championships go, 2008 was the anomaly!

  3. Some drivers are known for their regular usage of phrases like “for sure” and “obviously”.. Boullier joins the party with “It’s true ….. “

    1. It’s true, what you describe @me4me :)

      1. For sure , its true , but Vettel would for sure say ” obviously 11 times ”
        It true!

  4. I’d prefer Mercedes to be out in front than Red Bull, but not by this amount. I know it’s really early, bit I’m concerned about the advantage they have. It’s very reminiscent of Brawn in 2009. If Mercedes do a decent job of developing the car this season, then both championship’s will most certainly be theirs to lose. I don’t see any team catching up to them unfortunately, possibly later on in the season but I reckon it’ll be too late by then. I hope I’m wrong though.

    1. It’s very reminiscent of Brawn in 2009.

      That’s the first thing I thought of as well when I saw the race. Right now Mercedes has a Brawn like advantage, and they have a driver a driver line up that is a few hundred leagues above the like of Button and Barrichello. There is a very high chance of this season being a Mclaren 1988 like season, where nearly all the races are won either by Hamilton or Rosberg.

    2. RBR for both trophies again before newey goes boat racing

  5. I hope that by May, many teams will be a lot closer to Mercedes and maybe someone will catch them. I think Red Bull have the best chances on doing that, because their performance deficit is mainly from power unit. Their downforce levels are a match for Mercedes and if they sort out PU problems, then we can really see championship come alive.

    1. The power unit is the only part they can’t develop…..

  6. Mercedes wont be sitting still, either. So i find it niave of these teams that they think they will not only cut a massive (minimum) 1 second gap to Merc in just a couple of races time, but also bridge the extra performance Merc will also bring come the Euro leg of the season.

    1. Especially teams running the same power unit. That’s where the big performance steps will come from in the short term especially for Renault engined teams, who I think are still on a steeper portion of the curve than the Mercedes engined teems. The Renault engines in Melbourne were reportedly at the point Mercedes were at in Jerez in terms of performance, so they have a lot to gain in a short amount of time in the coming races if they’re able to stay on top of reliability and finally start optimizing performance.

      The advantage Mercedes has over a team like Red Bull may be aerodynamic, but is likely mostly down to the PU, whereas with the same PU, McLaren’s deficit is basically all the car, and if you go back to the end of last season and look at where McLaren stood compared to Mercedes, nothing has really changed, they’ve simply been flattered by the relatively poor performance of the Ferrari and Renault engined teams. I fear that McLaren may have a harder year ahead of them than they think based on Melbourne results.

      1. *aaargggh* teams! not teems!

        Really wish there was an edit button!

      2. How will Renault close the power gap when engine development is frozen?

        1. Through understanding the engine they already have better and optimizing its performance, which they were likely only really able to start work on in Melbourne whereas Mercedes already started optimizing performance in Jerez.

        2. If the changes are for reliability or cost savings and happen to bring performance too they can have them through the review process. Engine manufacturers have a say but the FIA have total control, if the EMs disagree the FIA can overrule them anyways.
          During the V8 homologation Renault changed 80% of the parts on their engine they said to give you a sense of the possible scale of changes.

          And yeah also engine maps, optimizations etc

  7. So Boullier completely forgot the race car engineer’s rule number 1:

    “To make a fast car reliable is easy – to make a reliable car fast is not!”

    1. Indeed @poul, especially when there are cars in the field that could be very fast already especially if their engine can be sorted a bit better; not just Red Bull (possibly Lotus?), but apparently Ferrari also need to get the ERS part working better, while they were already fast in the curvy S3 in Australia (and they do have reliability).

    2. @poul

      That “rule” didn’t give them better than 3rd place in 2012.

      It’s logical they would try a different approach this year, and the results so far (leading the championship) seem to back them up.

    3. “To make a fast car reliable is easy”? Remembering the MP4/14, MP4/20, MP4/27…If only it was that easy..

  8. McLaren have a very good base to develop on for the rest of the season. With Eric Boullier who is a very good team boss/racing director they have got good people in the right areas. Also with SuperKev surely they could challenge for a race win later on.

  9. I think McLaren will surprise a few people when they get going. In all respects it looks a far better car than last years and is certainly better planted than the Ferrari. Clearly Mercedes & Williams will be their targets with Red Bull holding the wild cards at the moment. Their driver line up is interesting and quite innovative – with a fast rookie and a wizened point poacher, they could be looking good for a fine run at the Constructors, but Drivers? I don’t think so.

    Sepang will provide much better data for the number crunchers. The answer is in the top speeds.

    Interestingly, previous McLaren philiosophy have not been particularly bothered with the Constructors, simply being happy to let their drivers race and win races but with McLaren now being on the Word Stage of sportscar production, there must be a paradigm shift in their strategy for the coming seasons – at least, that’s what I would expect their main board to be looking for.

    1. PS And that could be a reason why Jenson did not have a run at Kevin in Australia at the end. They wanted these points in the bag so I think that was intelligent stuff from the team. In the old days, nothing would have stopped JB from attacking if he had the right car under him.

    2. Yes, McLaren should start to have the WCC as their primary target. It’s a long time gone since 1998.
      And in other words, the drivers change(e.g. Hamilton), but the history of the team remains, and that’s what really matters.

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