Why Didn’t McLaren F1 Address Its High Drag Issue Sooner?

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At the beginning of the season, McLaren found themselves struggling with a car that not only lacked downforce but also suffered from poor aerodynamic efficiency, resulting in excessive drag at any given level of downforce.

Andrea Stella, the incoming team principal, implemented a recovery strategy to bring the MCL60 back into contention. This plan included a shift in philosophy, followed by an extensive upgrade package supervised by a restructured technical team at their Woking base.

Throughout July, McLaren’s hard work began to pay off, culminating in a significant performance leap. The team claimed two podium finishes with Lando Norris in Silverstone and Budapest, as well as a second-place finish for newcomer Oscar Piastri during a wet Saturday sprint at the Belgian Grand Prix.

However, the dry race at Spa revealed that, despite their improvements, McLaren’s straight-line speed was still a glaring problem. The cars were found lacking up to 15 km/h on the straights, a deficit so severe that Norris was being overtaken even before entering the DRS zone.

In response to this issue, team boss Stella announced an “urgent” search for a solution in anticipation of September’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza, where the current specifications would be at an even greater disadvantage.

Stella explained that the focus on wholesale changes to the B-spec car meant that the team hadn’t yet managed to allocate resources to fix the drag problem for circuits like Spa. Consequently, they chose to operate with a higher wing level, despite it not being ideal for high-speed tracks. This decision was made because lowering the wing level would have made the car’s excessive drag even more detrimental, costing more time in corners than it could gain on the straights.

Stella elaborated, “We have done quite a lot of work on redesigning the car from the start of the season. One thing that we haven’t attacked yet is actually the car at low drag level, so there wasn’t much efficiency to gain by going on a small rear wing, and we decided to stay at the point in which the car is at the moment most efficient.”

The choice was not merely tactical but was based on maximizing what the car could currently offer in terms of rear wing level. This is where the car performs the best at the moment, but Stella acknowledged that it needs to be addressed in the future as it leads to difficulties in racing, particularly in dry conditions.

McLaren’s primary solution for the weakness is to develop a new low-drag rear wing, beneficial not only for Monza but potentially also for Las Vegas, a street circuit without high downforce demands.

Stella concluded, “The main opportunity for us is to keep working on the rear wing, but the overall impact on drag comes actually from the entire car. For Monza, we are working on some mitigations that we couldn’t deliver in time for here, so we expect to be in better shape for Monza. And then, if there’s further trimming to be done for Vegas, we have a little bit more time. This is something that was on our to-do list, but we are not there yet.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword: McLaren

Why did McLaren start the season with a car having a high drag problem?

McLaren began the season with a car that suffered from high drag due to a lack of overall downforce and aerodynamic efficiency. The issue was not initially addressed because the team’s focus on making wholesale changes to the car for its B-spec meant that they hadn’t yet been able to allocate resources to resolve the drag problem.

What was Andrea Stella’s recovery plan for the McLaren’s MCL60?

Andrea Stella’s recovery plan included a change in philosophy followed by a comprehensive upgrade package overseen by a revised technical structure at Woking. The plan involved significant redesigning of the car, culminating in a huge jump in performance.

How did McLaren perform in the month of July?

In July, McLaren made significant progress by achieving two podiums with Lando Norris in Silverstone and Budapest, and a second-place finish for rookie Oscar Piastri in the wet Belgian Grand Prix’s Saturday sprint.

What is McLaren’s main solution to address its high drag issue?

McLaren’s primary solution to address the high drag issue is to develop a new low-drag rear wing. This change is expected to benefit the team at Monza and potentially also at Las Vegas, a street circuit without high downforce requirements.

Why did McLaren choose to go for a higher wing level at Spa?

McLaren opted for a higher wing level at Spa because at lower wing levels, the car’s excessive drag penalty would cost more overall lap time in the corners than it would gain on the straights. The higher wing level was where the car was most efficient at that time.

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RacingGrl August 11, 2023 - 9:19 pm

Lando Norris is amazing! Even with the car’s problems, he’s getting podiums. Go McLaren!!

James42 August 12, 2023 - 5:23 am

Wow McLaren’s really struggling this season. didnt know high drag was such a big issue for them. Hope they fix it soon!

F1Fanatic99 August 12, 2023 - 6:54 am

Andrea Stella seems to be doing a good job in recovery, but why they didn’t address this earlier Beats me. Looks like Monza will be a big test.

SpeedDemon August 12, 2023 - 4:18 pm

Oscar Piastri in second place in a wet race, now thats impressive for a rookie. But that drag problem? they need to fix it fast, or else… Monza will be tough.

TechGuru August 12, 2023 - 7:17 pm

interesting read on the aerodynamic efficiency, gives a good insight into what goes behind the scenes in F1. Never simple is it.


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