The McLaren Formula 1 team is getting better and better. Although the team dropped one place in the ranking of the constructors’ championship in 2021, the gap to Red Bull and Mercedes is becoming smaller. With five podiums and the highest number of points in years, the progression can be seen, but the very last step towards the top teams is yet to come.
McLaren does not expect to be able to make the big step in 2022, although they will of course quietly hope for it. CEO Zak Brown knows, however, that the future of the British racing stable does not depend on the coming F1 season alone. The American businessman prefers to invest in a plan that pays off in the long term.
McLaren still lags behind the top teams
Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari work with relatively new simulators and wind tunnels, while McLaren has to make do with old ones. In fact, their HQ in Woking doesn’t even have a wind tunnel. For the development of the 2022 car and for the aerodynamic tests in the near future, the team will have to move to Germany, where they use a former Toyota wind tunnel.
This, along with an outdated simulator in Woking, creates a major drawback. Not only does it cost a lot of extra time and money to manufacture parts in Great Britain and try them out in Germany, the results are also less good than with the competitors. The solution is obvious: better infrastructure within McLaren.
The team is busy with this, Brown explains to, among others FPAL. “In 2024, our infrastructure will be completely up to date again, especially the wind tunnel. Unfortunately, we currently use one of the least technically advanced wind tunnels and that is a huge disadvantage.”
“It will take time. We will write checks, but it will take a few years before the wind tunnel is ready. We therefore think that we will not have caught up with the rest in terms of infrastructure until the 2024 season.”
Ricciardo, Norris and the Mercedes engines important factors
In 2022 and in 2023 McLaren will still be slightly behind the competitors with the outdated material, but from 2024 Brown hopes to see the outcome of the multi-year plan. The successful businessman’s plans are all about stability and reliability, which is also reflected in drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.
With a new wind tunnel, a reorganization within the team (Brown took over the strategy within McLaren, ed.) and long-term contracts, McLaren has a strong foundation to build on. Norris and Ricciardo will continue to drive for the team for at least another two years and can thus help with the (further) development of the 2022 car.
In addition, it has only been a year since the racing stable made the switch to Mercedes engines. Here too, Brown has looked at the potential over several years, he said at the time when the deal with Mercedes was confirmed. “This agreement is an important step in our long-term plan. Mercedes is the benchmark, both as a team and with the engines.”
This switch also takes time before everything works perfectly, although the first results in 2021 were already very encouraging. By keeping calm and calm, knowing that they won’t really have everything in-house until 2024, the team takes all the time to examine each new step in detail before making a decision.
In 2020 and 2021 McLaren could surprise, but the real work is yet to come. Anything in podiums and wins over the next two seasons is a bonus for the team. The world title(s) may come from 2024, if we are to believe Brown’s future plans.