McLaren didn’t exactly blow fans away during the F1’s opening race at Bahrain, and now the team has admitted that it’s not feeling optimistic about its performance which is, according to McLaren, “a long way off”.
The first day of practice gave fans high hopes as it towered over the time sheets, but after problems revolving around the cooling of the front brakes, the second day of testing wasn’t quite as successful. Following this, McLaren faired just as badly during the Bahrain Grand Prix where Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris finished 14th and 15th with no points.
Team principal Andreas Seidl has admitted that “we know we have an issue on the performance side, which is disappointing and painful”. Norris however, has been more damning on the performance of the car:
“I’m expecting pain and I think everyone needs to know there’s going to be a bit of pain.”
the powertrain of the MCL36 worked perfectly during the Bahrain GP, but the car is “a long way down on downforce”, Norris explained, adding that he fully expected the race to look “as bad as what it felt” like in the car.
“It’s just where we are, quite simply. We just have to get a little bit used to it now.
“Of course over the last few seasons there’s a lot of expectation from us within the team but also from everyone else watching and so on, and we just haven’t got it right at the minute.
“We’re a long, long way off. Not just a little bit, we’re a long way [off].
“So we’ve got to start afresh and figure some things out, find solutions.
“Solutions don’t mean next week we’re gonna be amazing, but in the months to come we need to understand what’s going on and how to get better.”
If McLaren’s pace is going to continue as Lando expects, McLaren will not worry even the middle of the grid.
“It’s obviously a very challenging situation for the entire team starting this new era with this completely new car completely on the back foot,” Seidl told the press.
“But I think it’s also a moment where we have to show how far we came as a team that we actually can deal with the situation and get us out of the situation.”
Ricciardo on the other hand is feeling more optimistic as he says the car’s not “massively out of balance, we’re just lacking overall grip”.
“If we just find the numbers that will translate into a decent car but obviously for now we just don’t have the same numbers as the front teams.
“What still fills me with some optimism is it’s completely new cars obviously for everyone this year.
“Some teams have found a really good chunk. Maybe it’s just we keep trying a few things with set-up and we’re like, ‘oh, that turned the car on’.
“We’re still optimistic we might find something even in set-up, maybe not even in an update, so let’s stay hopeful for that.”
Of course, the cars weren’t the only thing that pushed McLaren further back the race in Bahrain. Both cars had cooling issues additional to the brake cooling problem that hadn’t been fixed by that point. On top of the team’s strategy to start on medium tyres, it was no surprise that it didn’t work well for them.
“It’s clear that we have a lack of performance in our package,” Seidl said.
“It definitely looks like this track here has exposed us to the weaknesses our package is having quite a lot.
“But in the end it’s also clear our ambition must be to have a competitive car on all old kinds of track layouts and that’s what we have to focus on.”
“We’ve still got a whole season of development and figuring things out but it’s just not easy to do so.
“Once we figure out what’s going on and what’s wrong then it’s all about implementing it and bringing upgrades and bringing those parts to the car.
“Figuring out is the hard part. Putting things in the windtunnel, all that kind of stuff. But it could come a third of the way through the season, halfway through the season, three quarters.
“I don’t want to believe it’s not going to be at all this season. I have faith in the team that they’ll be able to do it.
“They’ve done it the past few years. We just need to step back and re-look at everything and go again.”