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F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain - Practice BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 03: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL60 Mercedes ahead of Oscar Piastri of Australia and McLaren F1 Team during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 3, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain.

McLaren reveal ‘millimetre’ difference causing F1 2023 struggles

The Woking-based team had a difficult start ti the season in the season opener in Bahrain, with both cars suffering with reliability problems

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McLaren technical director James Key reveals that the Woking team’s current problems were triggered by the 2023 Formula 1 rule changes, forcing the team to change their aerodynamic philosophy with their MCL60.

Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix 2023 <yoastmark class=

During the 2022 season, all 10 constructors – along with the FIA – agreed to raise the floor edge by 15mm to counteract porpoising issues.

Porpoising was a major issue throughout the 2022 season. The issues cause drivers pain and also limited the car’s potential with teams having to rise the ride height of the car to avoid the relentless bouncing.

McLaren tested the MCL60 in the wind tunnel. After testing the car, the Woking team realised that it would be hard to recover lost performance from the floor regulation changes. Therefore, the team decided to change the design of the car, giving the team more potential to work with.

However, the team’s call to change the philosophy was too late for the season opener in Bahrain. Lando Norris previously mentioned about the team making big progress with the upgrades, which are planned to arrive in Baku.

Where McLaren’s woes started

McLaren technical director James Key revealed that the Woking outfit’s woes started when they “took the 15mm floor step”.

Key emphasised that he agreed with the decision to raise the floor edge by 15mm as it was “very sensible” after last year’s major issues with porpoising.

The Briton said that the floors are “huge and incredibly sensitive”. This caused teams to lose downforce generated from the bottom of the car. These new ground-effect cars rely heavily from the floor to produce downforce as there are no bargeboards on the sidepods anymore.

F1 Grand Prix of BahrainBAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 05: Oscar Piastri of Australia driving the (81) McLaren MCL60 Mercedes leads Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Haas F1 VF-23 Ferrari during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 05, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain.
Oscar Piastri retired early from the race due to an electrical problem (Image Credit: Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Why has it affected McLaren the most?

Key revealed that the 15mm floor change hurt McLaren the most. This was due to the aerodynamic route the team had taken with last year’s MCL36.

“If you look last year, there were two camps beginning to develop, one which we were in, and one which probably the majority of teams were in,” he explained. “And when we took that [15mm] step, it was a really big knock for us.

“And then trying to recover with what we knew at the time, and this was probably September time, we were thinking this is not working, we’ve actually got to change direction entirely with these geometries.

“Which is a big change, because they’re very big projects, and very complex projects.

“So I think the timing of the reg, and the fact that we took a particularly large hit, and then that it clearly wasn’t going to come back easily, meant that we had to change direction quite late.”

Key revealed that there was an option for the team to rush the upgrades to get them in for the season opener in Bahrain. However, the team decided to make sure the upgrades are fully developed.

Huge pressure on McLaren to deliver

The Woking team will have to do their best for races in Saudi Arabia and Australia. The team will have the same car until the fourth race in Azerbaijan.

Lando Norris qualified in 11th in the season opener, expecting to be knocked out in Q1. The Briton also maintained the pace behind the frontrunning cars, whilst being lapped, towards the end of the race.

However, Norris has not hidden the fact that he wants to be in a race-winning car in the near future. The Briton has outlined friends George Russell and Alex Albon having opportunities in race-winning cars.

Many have questioned Norris’ long-term contract with the Woking team. Especially, with Red Bull boss Christian Horner not hiding the fact that he wanted to sign the 23-year-old to Red Bull.

McLaren find themselves as a backmarker team. On the other hand, Aston Martin managed to go from a backmarker in 2022 to a potential frontrunner in 2023.

F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain - QualifyingBAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 04: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL60 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 04, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain.
Norris just missed out on a Q3 appearance, qualifying in 11th place (Image Credit: Eric Alonso/Getty Images)
McLaren not hiding their frustrations

Key was asked by Motorsport.com on how frustrating it was making the call late.

“Absolutely, I mean, it is frustrating because, to be honest, the route we’re on now seems to be pretty prolific, it’s doing what we hoped it would do. There’s still some work to do.

“The development rate on that is so much higher than what we had. Had the reg been earlier or had we clocked the fact that actually you need to do a different thing with this four weeks earlier, we wouldn’t be talking about it right now, to be honest.

“So it’s a bit it’s a bit of a shame. However, we are where we are, and we’re just going to recover from it.”

Do you think McLaren will recover and prove to Norris that they are on the right track to win races?

Feature Image Credit: Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Images

 

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