From quarterback to podium in four races: What is McLaren’s real form?

After coming out of the first pre-season test in Barcelona, ​​it looks like it will be FerrariThe main rival, he then endured several challenging weeks in the Middle East.

The disastrous test in Bahrain, fueled by unexpected brake problems, was followed by an equally miserable start to the season when it failed to score a single point.

Given the high hopes that in 2021 he will upgrade to his label of the best of the others, it suddenly seemed like the season would be ultra tough for the Woking team.

Signs of progress in Saudi Arabia, and even better form in Australia with double the share of points Land Norris and Daniel Ricciardothey were reduced to caterpillars that better fit MCL36.

But then in Imola, the track where the team was good last year, Norris brought him a podium because the team’s campaign was injected with a lot more optimism.

McLaren started from behind in Bahrain, fighting Williams out of points

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Pictures of motorsport

With such a rollercoaster of ups and downs, it was hard to figure out where the real one was McLaren the pattern agrees – and how much its form was reduced to more favorable circles, and how much to a package.

But for McLaren boss Andreas Seidl, the feeling within the team is that the recent pace is actually a more realistic picture – and the decline in Bahrain is one that stands out from the norm.

“My assessment is that if you look back at how everything went from the first test onwards in Barcelona, ​​then I think we had a decent test in Barcelona, ​​with the car basically working,” he explained.

“Then we obviously experienced this big failure, losing all these laps on the test in Bahrain, which then ended I think with the consequences for the weekend race in Bahrain. This was due to the compromised brake solution, but also due to the loss of all those laps and the ideal preparation for the start of the season in a brand new car.

“Since we had the race in the same place where it was tested, everyone gained so much experience and I think that made us look definitely worse than we actually are with the package.

“Then I think we’re going to Jeddah, and then we’re going to Melbourne, I think the more laps we made, the more time we had and we were able to recover from all the laps we lost on the test. That’s why I think part of our performance was just going back to the package that was there anyway. “

However, what the extra time of running with the car gave McLaren is the level of confidence that the MCL36 has a lot more potential than it was shown in Bahrain.

“I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with this car,” Seidl added. “At the same time, it’s clear that when you look at the performance gap you have, with a weekend like Melbourne, we lack performance and that’s why we work hard to achieve performance.

“I definitely think that with the current package and the little upgrades we’ve made since Bahrain, we have a car that’s good for fighting for the top 10 and good for fighting for points every weekend.

“That’s the goal right now, while we’re working on the upgrades we want to bring in the future.”

Lando Norris won the podium in the fourth race at Imola

Lando Norris won the podium in the fourth race at Imola

Photo by: Erik Junius

Norris’ podium at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix certainly gave little thanks to the misfortune of others – with Ferrari enduring a nightmare day, as Carlos Sainz was out in the first round and Charles Leclerc discarded the top three with a late turn.

Still, both of his drivers believe recent experience with the car shows that fighting at the front of the midfield – with AlpineHaas, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes – is something that can be predicted now.

Instead of better races lately being the result of big changes to the car, Norris is convinced that the team simply did much better in their package.

“I think what we see more now is that Bahrain has been a little more out of bounds compared to the last few weekends,” the Briton explained. “It simply came to our notice then.

“I think a lot of what we saw is still in the car. But we just understood that more, we certainly get more out of the car. We just worked on the weaknesses and made some improvements, and that showed quite a bit. There are a lot of positive things out of it.

“But I don’t think we’re comfortably the third fastest car today, I’d say. A few of these things in Bahrain are still in the car, and we’re trying to figure out part of it. We’ve focused on most of that and made some improvements, and I think that’s why we’re better now. “

McLaren is keeping update plans for its MCL36 close to its chest, as it will bring more thrust and reduce car weight over the next few races.

But judging by how much progress has been made so far in 2022, can the team now even discover that its current momentum is bringing it closer to Red Bull and Ferrari?

Ricciardo thinks this might be a little too optimistic.

“Don’t get me wrong, at least sitting here today, of course, is a bit of an optimistic ambition to be better than the third best team, because the first two are a good step ahead,” he said.

“But I think there’s still a lot to learn with these cars, and of course, not only us, but every team brings updates. And even a team like Mercedes with its philosophy, maybe that will come to life at some point this season.

“I think there is a lot of room for development and improvement, not this tenth and two tenths of the improvement. I think there is potential for four, five tenths.

“Look, it’s still ambitious because Red Bull and Ferrari will continue to evolve, so the goal will always move. But yes, I’m still, let’s say, still half full glass so we can still find something, maybe a little more at some point. “

For Seidl, the focus is largely on simply trying to achieve consistency that can help him fight for third place, rather than trying to dream that he can be up there from wheel to wheel with Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.

“The difference we have between Red Bull and Ferrari is huge and these guys are also not going to stand still,” he explained.

“So, regardless of how this season started and where we are at the moment, we know exactly where we are as a team. Compared to these guys, we still know about the deficits we have, so there’s no magic.

“But we all want to be ambitious. We wake up in the morning because we want to fight these guys and give our all, fight well.

“We try to find shortcuts, but sometimes you have to stay realistic. I see it that way, and we will give everything.

“Hopefully, other races similar to previous years will reappear, where certain car characteristics actually suddenly reverse in order for one or two races as we saw in Monza, for example, last year. That could happen this year, and it would be great.

“But the most important thing for me is to move forward, continuously, to establish our infrastructure to make sure that in a few years we will be fighting for race victories every weekend in the race.”

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