German Grand Prix – McLaren CEO Zak Brown says that the team have identified weaknesses with their MCL33 that show areas where the car is worse than last year’s.
McLaren entered 2018 with an air of optimism, having changed engine providers from Honda to Renault after three years of struggling for pace or reliability with the Japanese manufacturer. That initial optimism faded quite quickly as the reality of the pace of their new car revealed itself. While McLaren had the fallback of blaming their engine partner for poor performance for the last three years, this cannot be said in 2018. The Renault engine is a race winner in the hands of Red Bull, and a serious midfield competitor in the hands of the factory team. In McLaren’s hands, they are struggling to make it through Q1.
Speaking in an interview with Formula1.com, Zak Brown explained that critical analysis has revealed some unwanted facts: “I’m not going to get too technical,” said Brown, “but we don’t have the same level of downforce that we had last year. We have identified an area in which our car is weaker than last year’s car.”
With McLaren presenting the idea that their chassis’ have been competitive while running the subpar Honda power unit, 2018 has shown that the problems with the McLaren-Honda partnership may not have been as one-sided as the team would have liked. Brown says that there has been a step backwards in their own technical output since last year: “Did we have the best chassis last year? No, definitely not. Did we have probably a better chassis? I think because of all the different variables, it would be hard to definitively say yes or no, but we know we have less downforce this year than last year.”
Two weeks ago, Sporting Director Eric Boullier handed in his resignation from McLaren, feeling that he was not the right man to lead the team out of their woes. He has been replaced by former IndyCar racer Gil De Ferran, who has previous F1 experience with BAR-Honda. Despite this major management change, Brown says he is reluctant to make major changes in an attempt to rediscover their form, having last won a race in 2012.
“This decade, we’ve had a lot of lack of stability,” reckoned Brown. “We’ve had team principal in, team principal out, CEO in, CEO out, shareholder in, shareholder buying, shareholder out, etc. etc.
“I think any company, whether you’re a Formula 1 team or consumer packaged goods, it’s pretty difficult to bring stability and direction moving forward when things are constantly changing. So I think we’re going to close that chapter, and now build from where we find ourselves today.”