Anticipating wet weather, McLaren opted for a greater downforce level compared to competitors for both its cars. This decision was rewarding during the sprint event, where Oscar Piastri briefly took the lead and ended second, while Norris secured sixth place.
Despite this, the British driver stated that with more time, the team might have reduced the car’s downforce.
“In terms of downforce, I think we overshot the ideal range,” Norris stated when queried about his sprint performance by F1 Flow.com.
“This might be costing us around six to eight-tenths, purely on the straights. Factor in clipping and battery harvest, and the loss could escalate to almost a second on the straights during the race. However, we do manage to regain a fair amount in the corners.
“There’s always a give-and-take, but we might not be at the best place. I guess the consequence of having only FP1 and qualifying on Friday is that we couldn’t fine-tune the car optimally.
“At the end of the day, our losses exceed our gains, and we are paying the price.”
He pointed out that in dry conditions, decreased straight-line speed will make defending more challenging on the long run up the straight.
He continued: “There will be struggles along the way. We are aware of this and we’ll do our best with what we have.”
Following the Sprint, Oscar Piastri, with McLaren MCL60 in second position, arrived in Parc Ferme.
Photo by: Zak Mauger / F1 Flow Images
Andrea Stella, McLaren team boss, confessed that while increased downforce was beneficial in the wet sprint event, his drivers will need to strive to defend their positions on Sunday.
“Undeniably, having extra downforce boosted our performance today, but it also increased drag via the rear wing,” Stella noted.
“Under these circumstances, it provides considerable advantage in the second sector and also offers some gains through Eau Rouge.
“This helps offset the loss of speed from the first to fifth corner. So it definitely helps in the current conditions.
“But it also leaves us susceptible tomorrow in situations like the start and safety car restarts. We’re cognizant of that and will try to mitigate it as much as possible, but we realize there could be issues tomorrow.”
Stella further clarified that the decision to opt for high downforce and not differentiate the downforce levels between the cars was due to the team’s familiarity with the MCL60’s upgraded version at higher levels, and they have yet to fine-tune it in a lower drag setup.
“We haven’t yet optimized the car at low drag level,” Stella explained. “So there was little efficiency to gain by opting for a smaller rear wing. We decided to stick with the current most efficient setup.
“So it’s not just a strategic choice of being faster in corners or slower on straights. It’s more about what the car can provide based on the rear wing level. And presently, this is where the car performs optimally.
“Addressing this issue is certainly in our future plans as it leads to a situation where racing becomes challenging, especially in dry conditions when Eau Rouge is flat, making the car vulnerable to overtakes.”
Photo by: Steven Tee / F1 Flow Images
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about McLaren F1 Downforce
Why did McLaren opt for a higher downforce level at Spa?
McLaren chose a higher downforce level in anticipation of predicted wet conditions. This decision proved beneficial during the sprint event where Oscar Piastri led briefly and finished second, with Norris in sixth place.
What did Norris say about the high downforce level?
Norris said that the high downforce level, while beneficial in some aspects, was higher than optimal and might cost the team about six to eight-tenths on the straights alone during a race. He added that, given more time, the team would likely have reduced the car’s downforce.
How did the higher downforce level affect McLaren’s performance?
The higher downforce level improved McLaren’s performance in the corners, especially in wet conditions. However, it reduced straight-line speed, making it more challenging to defend on the long run up the straight, particularly in dry conditions.
What are the team’s future plans regarding the downforce level?
Andrea Stella, the McLaren team boss, acknowledged the trade-off in the current downforce level. He explained that they plan to address this for the future as high downforce levels can make racing challenging, especially in dry conditions.
What is the team’s strategy to mitigate the vulnerability due to high downforce?
While they understand the vulnerability caused by high downforce, especially in dry conditions and during safety car restarts, the team plans to manage the situation as much as possible. However, they have not specified particular strategies.