Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, Paul Ricard, 2018

McLaren reveals aerodynamic problem behind poor form

2018 French Grand Prix

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McLaren says a problem with its car’s aerodynamics is to blame for its poor performance in Formula 1 this season following its worst qualifying result of the year so far.

Both McLaren drivers were eliminated in the first round of qualifying at Paul Ricard. Group CEO Zak Brown said the team’s car has an aerodynamic problem which wind tunnel testing failed to reveal.

“We have identified the areas in which we have a problem or problems,” said Brown. “It’s in aerodynamics, it’s something that I’m not going to give much more than what I’m about ready to say.

“It’s something that doesn’t show up in the wind tunnel. Therefore we can’t try and solve it in the wind tunnel because we can’t replicate the issue or issues in the wind tunnel.”

The team has resorted to conducting back-to-back tests of different parts in a bid to solve the problem.

“We have to try and fix the issues at the race track,” said Brown. “And with no testing, or very limited testing… I think you’ll see that we were running different configuration wings this weekend, different floors.

“Unfortunately we’re having to test and experiment at the race track. So while most other teams are now on their development path and their base programme is working for them we’re having to identify and work to solve these issues.

“We had some different aerodynamic devices last year that we don’t have this year and so we’re having to try and sort these issues out at the race track.”

Although McLaren has its own in-house wind tunnel it uses the Toyota facility in Cologne to develop its car. The same facility is used by rivals Force India and World Endurance Championship team Toyota for its LMP1 car. Brown said the problem is not with the wind tunnel.

“I think the Toyota wind tunnel is fine, he said. “The characteristic of the race car is you can’t simulate everything in the wind tunnel and what we’ve identified, the areas of weakness, simply doesn’t show up in a wind tunnel whether it was Toyota’s or someone else’s. So it’s something that we need to develop at the race track.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 39 comments on “McLaren reveals aerodynamic problem behind poor form”

    1. *2017* “we have the best chassis out there, can’t help it if the Honda in back is rubbish”

      *2018* “in a stationary enclosed room our car is amazing. It’s a shame the Earths atmosphere is holding us back”

      Well done McLaren.

      1. I don’t understand this claim by them. They got what they wanted, an engine that is considered better than Honda and they are the last of the renault powered teams.

        Is it even true that Mclaren used high wings just to point the blame at Honda last year?

        1. McLaren seem to be lying through their teeth a lot lately. When the Freddo story broke, they first denied reports of any dissent at all @ the factory, defended the Freddo farce, then made a statement about trying to get to the bottom of why “that individual” is supposedly unhappy with the non-existent toxic atmosphere. Also, remember nobody was supposedly ready to jump ship or complaining to Martin Whitmarsh at all, but when Whitmarsh put his two cents in, his words were supposedly “ill-judged and ill-informed”.

      2. Maybe they did have the best, or one of the best chassis at a point in the 2017 season. I remember in the 2017 Mexican GP Hamilton had a hard time passing Alonso and he (ALO) claimed the car was on rails and was looking forward to this year.

        They obviously got it wrong this year – surely it was partially due to playing catch up developing the 2018 chassis because of the late divorce from Honda. I believe they were 3 weeks behind the competition.

        The big question now is do they want to continue putting a lot of resources in improving this chassis or should they start on the 2019 chassis? Hopefully, it’s somewhat fixable but if by the end of this 3 race stint the car’s performance isn’t better, they might as well start on the 2019 chassis.

        This will hurt them sponsorship wise, something they can ill afford.

    2. GP2 aerodynamics!

      At least they’ve finally acknowledged a problem of their own making for once. The key now is to show that they can solve the issue and finish the season on a high like Red Bull last year.

    3. I think I know what’s wrong with it: not enough downforce.

      1. Yup, and this downforce is not showing up in the wind tunnel, any wind tunnel.

        There are more problems… High drag, also shows up only on race track not tunnel.

      2. @afonic I tend to disagree. I think their downforce levels are pretty high compared to most teams, given that they have performed decently at tracks like Spain and Monaco this year and Hungary in previous years. But they are consistently very slow in the speed traps, even with the Renault engine. So I think the main problem is an extremely high level of drag – or to put it a different way, an aero package that is very inefficient in its downforce/drag ratio.

        1. Gavin Campbell
          24th June 2018, 9:30

          The Honda engine was very compact and the fact that when they moved to the Renault they had to get a saw out and open the car up for more cooling cannot be helping.

        2. @keithedin I agree with you, I was just making fun with the fact that the teams that are performing badly always discover some kind of “problem”, like Williams. When Sauber was dead last, they were saying “we just don’t generate enough downforce”.

          McLaren’s car is stable and predictable (Alonso’s words), it’s just slow. Their design is doomed, they should start working for the 2019 car after the triple header in my opinion.

          1. Weird that Alonso says the car to be stable and predictable, since they slide a lot, chew tires AND are slow.

    4. Well, at least now we know for sure they aren’t hiding their poor aerodynamic form behind Honda’s engine woes. McLaren is quickly becoming a joke.

      1. Jeremy Smith
        24th June 2018, 0:32

        That is not fair and you know it.. Would you tell them face to face that they are “joke” team ?
        I didn’t think so …

        1. Ofc i would. They tell Honda face to face that Honda is a joke and now this happen. Mclaren deserves no less for their extreamly poor manners.

    5. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
      23rd June 2018, 21:25

      So that article where the whole freddo fiasco was leaked was right… The senior members of McLaren have no idea how to correct the faults with the car. So I’d say new mgmt could be a good idea…

    6. Neil (@neilosjames)
      23rd June 2018, 22:04

      I can’t help but wonder if they didn’t monumentally screw up the packaging switch from Honda to Renault, leaving themselves with a mess of a car that’ll never work as well as a better planned design would have…

    7. It is not the chassis. We repeat, it is not the chassis.

    8. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      23rd June 2018, 22:38

      What a disgrace they have turned into,It’s sad to see and there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

      1. @canadianjosh the light at the end of the tunnel is fine ……….. ” it’s not a tunnel problem” ……..pun intended.

    9. Hey Ron and Martin back…

        1. Yea, hire Ron back.
          Ron that got them into this nightmare by signing with Honda in the first place.
          Ron is where he should be – retired!

      1. Ron is a terrible manager. The team under his management was stealing data from Ferrari in 2007. The team under his management lied in Australia 2009 to keep the podium. The team won only 1 WDC and no WCC in 18 years. Ron lost Newey, who didn’t like how engineers were organized in McLaren. Ron wasn’t able to rebuild the team when Honda came back. Ron hired this another terrible manager Boullier.
        I still don’t see any reason why Ron was good. Do you know that Mercedes were actually going to make McLaren their works team? But Ron destroyed his relationships with Mercedes. Ron also destroyed his relationships with McLaren owners…
        All the bad things that happened to McLaren lately (and are happening now) because of how terrible Ron was. I can’t believe that you seriously want this person in F1.

        1. During Ron’s management, McLaren won 25% of all races it had entered. They won 12 WDC’s and 8 WCC’s. He built a team that next to Ferrari is the most successful team in F1’s history. Easy to let these stats out of your nice little story, right?

    10. It’s just such a shame to see McLaren, and also Williams right at the tail end of the grid (ignoring Hartley because of engine swap penalties), once upon a time they were both great teams.

    11. Is Macca pulling a Mac(intosh)? Apple also under invested on their Mac hardware in favor of mobile phones (just as McLaren seems perfectly capable of making good sports cars) and the lack of focus shows

    12. It’s pretty astonishing a team with McLarens budget don’t have (and use) their own state of the are wind tunnel.

      I suspect this problem has been ongoing one way or another since Perez drove for them. That car was an aerodynamic mess, to such an extent they ended up having to run the thing with almost no suspension just to keep the aero platform steadier. (a similar issue to what Williams have this season and their aero stalling).

      At a guess watching their car, it doesn’t look too short of downforce, the balance never looks horrible, it never really looks snappy, so i suspect rather than stalling aero, it’s just horribly inefficient at everything but perfect test lab conditions, any pitch, yaw or roll must be introducing what can only be described as similar to opening a parachute on the thing.

    13. How far back is the McLaren wind tunnel? I know the Cologne tunnel is seen as ‘state of the art’ (a decade after Toyota’s tenure in F1) but is it something McLaren can upgrade? Looking at the ‘Technology Centre’, surely it’s beyond having to send engineers and 60% models to Germany? It’s surely a waste to have a wind tunnel but yet share one so far away with other teams?

      1. I believe it’s not just a simple case of updating their own tunnel as the whole MTC is built around it, so it becomes a major issue. I’m guessing they use it in the road car division now. Plus it’s incredibly expensive to upgrade wind tunnels and since divorcing Honda cost them dearly, I doubt the share holders I’ll see want to dig even deeper after plugging an already massive budget deficit.

    14. Something isn’t making sense.
      If the problem has been identified as an “Aero Issue” and this is the root of the problem, it should show up in the wind-tunnel. If it doesn’t and the tunnel is a well calibrated and trusted facility (and it is) then the question might be …. is this something other than an aero problem.
      Just guessing, if you can’t find the issue in the wind-tunnel and the tunnel is believable, either your input (model) is incorrect or the problem is not entirely aero.
      I heard that Williams had their own tunnel, ooops they may be busy with it.

      1. The model of the car is only 60% full size, so it’s not a direct comparison and the wind tunnel does not reach wind speeds of 300kph so try do most of their tests at around 200kph and then use their simulation tools to predict what will happen a higher speeds. Drag increases massively with more speed. This is probably why they can get the issue to repeat in the test conditions in any wind tunnel.

    15. As a long time fan, I don’t want to kick them when they are down. But Eric Boullier and Zak Brown do not look like the leaders who can pull this once great team from the black hole it finds itself in. They need to bring in a couple of top guys to run the show. Going back to Whitmarsh who was the leader when the slide started is also not the answer.

      Go all out and get an Adrian Newey or Christian Horner. Shell out the big bucks to them rather than paying millions to top drivers to drive a dog of a car. Even James Key as Technical Director will do a lot better than this lot. Sauber and Toro Rosso are beating them. If they do not wake up now they will end up as another Williams.

    16. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      24th June 2018, 7:07

      What seems strange is just that it is very clear that Sauber were better than them. And it won’t have just been to do with the engine. While I don’t think Ericsson is as bad as most think, Vandoorne is certainly better and Alonso, significantly better. And Ericsson clearly beat both. Even over the whole season, I would say Mclaren have been looking pretty poor. Alonso is the one getting most out of it.

      1. @thegianthogweed Yes. What they claimed was the best chassis on the grid is having a hard case making itself anything but the worst chassis on the grid.

    17. I’m sure that Zak Brown, with his PhD in fluid mechanics and vast and deep experience in computational modeling of the Navier Stokes equations is exactly the right man on top.

    18. Curious to see that even though McLaren have their own wind tunnel, they still use Toyota’s one. Anyone know why this is the case? Is the McLaren one being updated or anything of the sort or is the Toyota tunnel just better so they decided to go with it?

    19. What is wrong with McLaren and Williams… They’ve both gotten into a complete ridiculous stage these years.

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