Carlos Sainz Jnr, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya

Sainz: Difficult for McLaren to compete with ‘small teams getting help from big teams’

2020 F1 season

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Carlos Sainz Jnr praised his new McLaren after the first day of testing but is concerned about the degree of co-operation between their midfield rivals and top teams like Mercedes and Red Bull.

[smr2020test]After covering 161 laps on the first day of testing, Sainz said McLaren couldn’t have made a better start to its 2020 campaign.

“The first impression is that to complete 160 laps on the first day of testing is already quite a big achievement,” he said. “We hit the ground running this morning. We were into our run plan very quickly and the positive thing is that we completed every single lap that we had planned for.

“Basically we couldn’t do more laps because there are not more tyres available. We didn’t have a single problem in the car of reliability, which meant we ended the day doing pit stop practice and some starts with not much more do.

“So I’m very, very happy and the feeling with the car was positive also. It was quick out of the box, I was feeling comfortable with it and we hit the track and started testing things very quickly.”

Lance Stroll, Racing Point, Circuit de Catalunya
Racing Point’s new car resembles last year’s Mercedes
Sainz set the sixth-fastest time behind the two Mercedes drivers, their customer team Racing Point, plus the Red Bull and their customer AlphaTauri. The similarities between the two customer teams’ cars and the factory machines drew much attention, and Sainz is concerned about how strong a threat such customer teams may pose to McLaren this year.

“A team like McLaren always has pressure to deliver,” he said. “McLaren is one of the best teams in the history of Formula 1 and we know that fourth, fifth is still not where McLaren wants to be.

“But McLaren also knows that this is still very early on this new project that we have put ourselves and we are looking at the medium-longer term target of fighting for the top positions again. It’s very difficult to say at the moment.

“You can see some of the smaller teams getting a lot of help from the bigger teams. So if they come here with a car that is very similar to last year’s Red Bull or to last year’s Mercedes, it is going to be very difficult for McLaren to do that [big] a step.

“So we don’t depend on what the others are doing. We depend on what we can do. And at the moment we can only focus on ourselves, keep doing the steps that we’re doing. Like the ’35 car hitting the track and doing a lot of laps, and feeling the car already a step better than last year on the first day, and opening windows of development.

“That’s the only thing we can do at the moment and we cannot think in what the others are doing.”

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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...
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29 comments on “Sainz: Difficult for McLaren to compete with ‘small teams getting help from big teams’”

  1. The other side of the coin Carlos, is that the smaller teams are smaller, so even if they are getting a degree of help, they still lack the resources and manpower to compete truly at the top level, whereas McLaren are a fully resourced team and should be able to help themselves in-house to find the gains that the smaller teams can only do with help that is far from in-house nor as sustainable.

    1. They’re only smaller on paper.
      If they get to benefit from the R&D departments of their larger sister-teams, they get to spend that money on other areas.

      If they had to somehow ‘report’ the cost of the R&D they get to share, I’d wager their budgets would look similar to a standalone team like McLaren. So they effectively are the same size, but also get a starting point that is known at least as fast as last year.

      I’m not making excuses for McLaren. You just can’t call them smaller while ignoring the saved R&D costs.

      1. Yeah fair comment, ancker, but that is why I used the word sustainable. I envision that Racing Point, for example, have gotten a lot of help and instruction in integrating the Mercedes pu, but it is not like that help will be as strong throughout the year. I envision that they have been helped to a degree…the necessary amount such that RP knows what to do with the Merc pu, but after that, I don’t think you can say, in this case RP’s R&D costs, have been completely saved by the help they get. Not nearly enough that you can say RP can then take their R&D money and apply it elsewhere as Mercedes have saved them that.

        No, RP would still need as big an R&D budget as they can muster in spite of the specifically placed help they would get from Mercedes. RP would not have nearly the staff ie. the brain bank to do all the experimenting with different wings etc etc that the bigger teams can do. There are many many ways that an RP would lack compared to a Mercedes, so no, the help RP gets from Mercedes only goes so far, and does not make a smaller team like RP not small anymore.

  2. I thought McLaren might be spearheading the midfield but after watching the racing point, that car is immaculately finished, that front wing looks like a sheet of paper and the nose is even thinner than the McLaren. one thing is to copy the design, but having the ability to build it? where did that level of expertise come from? The Tauri we know RB is helping them, but the racing point goes from looking like a piece of cardboard to a razor blade. Racing Point doesn’t even have bargeboards yet!

    1. Stroll is serious about building something big.

        1. Nah to me I get the vibe Lawrence wants to take things way deeper than Haas has demonstrated since he entered F1. I think Stroll has cars and F1 way more in his blood. He’s been hanging around F1 and BE and other F1 bigwigs for at least 30 years. He seems way hungrier to me. And of course he is literally talking about and acting on investments and expansion to as we speak. Yeah I know Haas has his pedigree in racing too, but in North America.

          1. @robbie

            The only reason I think Stroll will manage to get more out of his team than Haas will, is because he has acquired a team that has been incredibly efficient at designing, developing and running operations with small budgets. Racing Point has all the ingredients of a solid F1 team, and they should be able to better capitalise on this Mercedes partnership.

            Haas on the other hand.. isn’t even a racing outfit. Other than running track operations (which they’re pretty bad at), they’ve outsourced every function to either Ferrari or Dallara. Haas may have started this copycat philosophy in modern F1, but they’ve now got to compete with proper F1 teams using the same model.. and that spells nothing but ‘backmarker’ for Haas.

    2. That design was not copied, it was handed down.

  3. So do we call ’em the pink arrows? Maybe their statement of cars on the podium was actually prescient after all!

    1. @phylyp pink arrows indeed haha

  4. Does anybody know what tyres did Sainz use during his best laptime today? Autosport says C2 but official graphics of Pirelli says C3. I wouldn’t rely on the latter as I remember they weren’t always so reliable with last year’s graphics.

    1. F1 talk C2 too. C3 used in finsh test day.

  5. I wonder how budget cap would reglement the sister teams? Maybe Toro Rosso (“Or whatever it’s called now”) will develop some parts of the car and Red Bull other parts and then help each other? This would make it possible to increase the development budget to about ~150%.

    1. The impression I get is both Red Bull and Alpha Tauri buy stuff off Red Bull Technologies. The rule is the team has to own the intellectual rights to certain “listed parts”. I’m not sure how the FIA would view it if both teams owned the intellectual rights to an identical listed part. Is that wrong? It does seem to be an area where there’s the potential for lots of ambiguity.

  6. I wonder how much this will change next year when McLaren becomes a Mercedes Customer team like Racing Point. Will McLaren still be “on their own” or will they be getting support from the top team as well?

    1. I would think Mac will get the same amount of support that RP is getting. That being that which customers usually get. I think RP is “on their own” after initial installation and setup assistance this year just as Mac will be next year. Of course next year there won’t be a previous year car to play off of as they will all be having to build brand new revolutionary cars, but of course they will have assistance in installation etc of the pu I would expect, as in, what the teams will have to ensure is in place in their 2021 car in order to marry the Mercedes pu to it. What they’ll be having to ensure is in place for adequate cooling etc etc.

  7. When did McLaren become a small team?

    1. Exactly, they’ve always been a top team with a poor car for the last few years!

      1. Who are the small teams? There are no small teams in F1. Only the ginormous and the slightly less ginormous.

    2. @david-beau

      My thoughts exactly.

      I was disappointed that McLaren even made a statement saying they are going to find it difficult to compete with midfield teams. I’d like to think that they thought of themselves as a top team, that is getting back towards the pointy end, instead of a midfield team trying to prove it’s the best of the rest.

  8. Need to see side by side renders of Racing Point and Mercedes; and the ones who have gone under the radar: Haas and Ferrari.

  9. You should have stayed at Toro Rosso then😅

  10. Don’t loose sight of what it seems that the FIA is after … same budgets and similar (read as almost-spec) cars so the racing is close and “exciting”.
    Not what most would wish for, but that is where it is heading.

  11. Doesn’t the FIA have a compliance team that look at designs etc that would or should recognise that a teams design drawings are identical to another’s?

    I can’t see either of the teams in question using copies (or parts) that are identical and not “listed” because the penalty for being excluded, even from 1 race, in the midfield is way too big for them to risk valuable points.

    You can bet your life that someone will raise a protest if the similarities (once photographers get enough photos) are too close to be anything other than as a result of IP being handed over.

    1. @dbradock

      I think it’s impossible to tell whether they simply copied designs of the entire car (which is perfectly legal) or whether they were handed the blue prints to Mercedes’ car by Mercedes. Only a whistleblower could blow it up for them… there’s just no way a compliance team would be able to do anything.

      1. @todfod the chances of being able to copy exactly to the tolerances required from observation/photos, particularly parts that are not normally visible would be next to zero.

        I suspect that an examination of homologation drawings and specifications against the original should show fairly significant differences if they were copied – if however they were just rebranded original blueprints the similarities would be pretty obvious.

  12. There are 100m reasons why McLaren are in no position to be making a fuss about teams sharing IP.

    Winning competitors in all sports are copied. In F1, they buy knowledge when they employ engineers/designers that previously worked for another team. All of the teams have people taking thousands of photographs of each other’s cars.

    The Racing Point may have similarities to last year’s Mercedes, but how much is the same under the carbon fibre?

  13. I really wish they would put an end these sister teams. Well, I mean, I hope one day we have plenty of independent teams that can compete against each other without the need for this unsportsmanlike situation. I don’t want the field down to 6 teams.

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