McLaren’s poor performance not just down to brake duct fix

2022 Australian Grand Prix

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The compromises McLaren made to address its braking problem in pre-season testing are not the only cause of its uncompetitive start to the season, according to team principal Andreas Seidl.

After a difficult second test, in which the team’s running was limited by braking problems, Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris finished outside the points in Bahrain, taking 14th and 15th respectively.

Norris was able to take seventh in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but Ricciardo was forced out of the race by a mechanical problem on his car.

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said the team’s focus would be on “understanding more the current strengths and weaknesses of the car” before this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. “We need to see which improvements we can make already for Melbourne,” he added. “At the same time I don’t expect big miracles there, we simply need a bit more time.”

The braking problem the team encountered for the first time in Bahrain forced it to run an interim fix at the opening two races. “In the time available it was the only solution we could bring to the car which is definitely not optimal in terms of performance,” said Seidl.

However, he admitted the team has other problems to resolve on its MCL36. “We simply lack grip, which is the result of missing mechanical grip and aerodynamic load on the car, which was [clear] on the race weekend in Bahrain,” he said. “Definitely not just an issue of the current brake ducts we’re running.”

McLaren performed better on the quick Jeddah layout than they did in Bahrain, but Seidl is wary of jumping to conclusions about the car’s potential strengths.

“To be honest it’s still early days. It’s not that straightforward to define all the upgrades in detail that we want to bring in over the course of the season now, also as a reaction of what we have seen in the first two races in terms of performance deficit.

“But the goal is clear for us as a team, to get back to where we want to be and where we have to be on all kind of tracks independent of layout, ambient conditions, tyre selection, et cetera.

“I’m absolutely convinced we have the team to do that in order to strike back everyone is fully motivated to do that in a very united approach as well and we simply need now a bit more time.”

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2022 Australian Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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26 comments on “McLaren’s poor performance not just down to brake duct fix”

  1. Also, Toto told me it’s not the engine.

    So there’s that.

    1. Probably a clause in the engine contract “not allowed to speak about performance”.

    2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      6th April 2022, 10:02

      FIA head of single seaters Nikolas Tombazis has proclaimed that power unit performance across the grid is largely similar, now the engine freeze has come into effect.

    3. As proved by jeddah, the car is not that bad, 2nd quickest merc, a good chunk behind merc, nothing changed there, just that merc not only lost their power advantage but looks to be underpowered, as a skinny winged Aston was still slow on the straight.
      McLaren are not even honest about the brake situation. The problem with the brakes is not in the ducting, can’t be, they had plenty of time and opportunity to fix that. It has to be more humiliating. The problem has to be the brake disc design, it takes a month just to make a disc. You want the brakes to be as light as possible and they got it wrong. Solving the brakes won’t make them quicker but it wiĺl allow mclaren not to be last on heavy braking tracks.

  2. I just don’t understand how a team with McLaren’s resources and lead-up time couldn’t produce a halfway decent performing car. Faulty brake ducts, non-existing aero, and no mechanical grip all at the same time? Yikes.

    Luckily Lando didn’t sign a contract for 4 years with no escape clauses, he can move to greener pastures and not linger at the back, at least.

    1. @sjaakfoo I don’t think it should be a surprise given that the Mercedes factory works team has faltered and to me it still remains that customer teams are in no position to be beating the factory works teams from which their pu comes. So to me if Mercedes has failed with this car it should be no surprise that the Mac is worse. Put another way I’d have been surprised if Mac was better than Merc as that would have been a first in the hybrid era for Mercedes runners. If anything I thought Mercedes would have been competitive and Mac would have been fighting for best of the rest after RBR, Ferrari, and Mercedes.

      1. Irrelevant. This was a golden opportunity for Mclaren to be in front of Mercedes. Instead with Mercedes bringing a limited car, Mclaren brought an even more limited car…

        1. What seems really ironic is that after the first Barcelona Test, the press were raving about McLaren and especially their aero performance in sealing the floor, evident in the wet running part of the test session.
          Where did all this go.?

          1. Press can’t control themselves, they makes stories from 1 data point.

  3. Teams who have the biggest gaps between drivers or constructors championships or those who haven’t won at all

    Sauber/BMW/Alfa 32 years*
    Minardi/TR/AT 31 years*
    Williams 25 years*
    Arrows/Footwork 25 years

    Mclaren 24 years*

    Ligier/Prost 22 years
    Tyrrell 21 years
    Lotus 15 years
    Brabham 13 years
    Ferrari 13 years*

    They have been better overall than Williams but still for a team like Mclaren the wait has almost been worse for them than for Williams

    1. Jordan/Midland/Spyker/FI/RP/AM 32 years*

      1. Derek Edwards
        6th April 2022, 9:47

        Tyrrell/BAR/Honda/Brawn/Mercedes couple of months?

    2. It’s 14 years since McLaren won the Drivers’ Championship.

      1. 13 years. 14 years at the end of this season.

        1. You’re correct.

          I mean, it’s nearly 9 years since Red Bull last won the Constructors’ Championship!

    3. someone or something
      6th April 2022, 13:31

      Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get it.
      When is McLaren supposed to have had a streak of 24 years without a title?
      They had 8 title-less years until their first success in ’74. Then another 10 years until ’84. 7 years from ’91 to ’98. 9 years between ’99 and 2008. McLaren’s last title was 13 years ago, the same year as Ferrari won the Constructors’. Therefore, McLaren and Ferrari should be even.

      As for Tyrrell, they became BAR/Honda/Brawn/Mercedes, so their current wait for a title is 0 years. Yeah, Mercedes has absolutely nothing to do with Tyrrell, but for the sake of consistency, neither do Alpha Tauri with Minardi, nor Aston Martin with Jordan.

      Also, Team Enstone is missing. Toleman/Benetton/Renault/”Lotus”/Renault/Alpine won their last titles in 2006, so they’ve been waiting for 15 years now. Lotus without the ” ” spent 16 title-less years in F1 before collapsing.

  4. I expected that a couple of teams would get their 2022 cars badly wrong, but I must admit I didn’t expect either Mclaren or Mercedes to be the ones that made such a mess of things.

    They’ll probably both have to do a Haas and shift focus to next year fairly soon because they’re both looking pretty poor for 2022.

    1. someone or something
      6th April 2022, 13:36

      “Badly” … Mercedes are currently 2nd in the CWC.
      Yeah, it’s flattering. But pretty far from catastrophic, methinks.

    2. @dbradock I agree it is a surprise. I would only just say in response that I’m not sure how to define ‘shift focus to next year’ in the sense that to me this is the steep part of the learning curve for all the teams, so I envision a Mercedes and a Mac ‘simply’ putting their noses to the grindstone and learning and developing their car during this season in hopes of finding their way, finding exactly what they have done wrong, as opposed to what I envision from your wording being they just scrap any plans to do that with this year’s car and just go back to the 2023 drawing board and worry about next year and write this year off. I think they need this season to continue to learn and develop and evolve their ideas, not just scrap them altogether and stand pat and hope they nail their car for next year. Do they know enough yet such that they can go back to the drawing board and just like that come out with a winner?

      1. @robbie fair point.

        I don’t exactly mean sit back and do nothing, but if for example they need to design a new chassis from the ground up, there’ll be budget constraints.

        I envisage parts being brought for testing and data collection without going into a full manufacturing and QA cycle but I’m not expecting either to suddenly come to a weekend with an ultra competitive car.

        Sure they’ll keep their nose to the grindstone – just not sure whether there’s the capability or the budget capacity to make or even attempt any huge gains. I could very well be wrong – let’s see how things play out, but if there’s a fundamental flaw in their initial design, I don’t see them throwing good money after bad.

        1. @dbradock Yeah for sure budget is now a big factor eh. I read a surmising that Mercedes is overweight (like others) and that their chassis is flexing, so they will start with a new design of floor at some point when they are back in Europe, and then it will be wing and sidepod changes after that. I suppose it is exactly as you say…that fundamental flaw that they’ll be wanting to discover so they aren’t throwing good money after bad, in case the flaw needs next year’s car to fix.

          But yeah as is being said by TPs and others like Newey, they now have to be quite careful and deliberate with their decisions as they can’t just make several iterations of what have you and experiment nearly as much.

          1. @robbie Yep, I guess it probably depends on how much they spent on their new cars and how much they have in reserve but we “should” be past the days of big teams just throwing money at a problem.

            Going to be interesting – Mercedes keep saying they’re going to bring loads of upgrades but I wonder just how many they can bring before they start to feel budget pain.

  5. To be honest , im not a mechanic or a designer but when i first saw the MCL36 in the launch date, i thought that something is wrong. There is nothing in common with the demo F1 car that Tobazis presents months before. So before our launch date , we saw Aston which was realy beautiful and seems like a new generation design like the prototype. That is not happening to McLaren. Unfortunately McLaren have an old design, and Key told that they dont take many risks. I thing that the all project has wrong direction. I hoped to see my team (Mclaren) with big changes , seem like some beautiful concepts i saw at Insta. But nothing. A slow car, that is very very dificult to come back this year. Very sad. Sorry guys.

  6. So how is it that Haas can come from nowhere to scoring points in the first two races. Magnussen comes in, minimal testing and a bum neck, and looks like a star (he may just well be).
    McLaren has waaaay more technical design and development resources than Haas and look where they are with the drivers they have. What is going (or not going) on.?
    This is the first car that Haas has designed and presumably built themselves. Man what an AWESOME job they have done.
    For McLaren, and Williams (not to be left out) to be behind them is crazy. I love it, but this is just pain nuts.
    Mind you, if the second Haas car was being piloted by Mazepin, it is likely we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
    As Yoda would say, “Thankful, we all should be.”

    1. Haas gave up last year and has the most cft and windtunnel time so their car is the most advanced on this moment (means not fastest but a car who is working well) then you have to see to the other teams if they went to right way.

    2. It’s not just the car, I suspect. KMag has less to prove these days, which probably leads to fewer mistakes. He’s appears more mellow, less aggressive which does the same. And he’s always been the kind of driver that deals well with “misbehaving” or unusual cars. He does have preferences, I suppose, but seems to have fewer imperatives than many other drivers.

      Obviously, the car itself is also vastly improved, of course, as are the people around him apparently. It’s good to see a driver that has always seemed quick to finally have equipment and a team to match the skills :o)

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