Back in 2014 McLaren poached Peter Prodromou from Red Bull. ‘Prod’ worked very closely with Adrian Newey during the dominant years of Red Bull Racing as head of aero so it was quite a catch for Mclaren to swipe Ade’s apprentice particularly during the period where Newey had wound down his involvement in F1 to start drawing boats (Americas Cup to be precise). For 2014 the McLaren Mercedes appeared in testing with a Red Bull front wing clearly showing Peter’s influence straight away.
Indeed by the time we saw the fully ‘Prodded’ McLaren Honda in 2015 with it’s ‘size zero’ concept back end, it was obvious it was an even more under powered Red Bull judging by the wings, coke bottle rear and the cars extreme rake angle. All hallmarks of the Red Bull.
But could this tactic by McLaren be in fact hurting their chances? Yes Williams and Force India have Mercedes power but they’ve always traditionally run with a low downforce, slippery car thus giving themselves a shot of at least a podium if not a race win at certain tracks, most notably the coming races in Austria and Great Britain. It is understood that the Honda Power Unit isn’t as powerful as the Mercedes but is it really that down on BHP this season?
Chief of Engine design at Honda, Yusuke Hasegawa confirmed at the weekend that McLaren should top the speed traps this year saying “the car has more downforce this year, if McLaren had the same wing setting like the other teams, we would be top.” when asked by auto-motor-und-sport.de if their low speed trap speed was the engine or the car’s fault.
Maybe it’s good in the long term to work on a platform that can be developed evenly to excel at any circuit type but perhaps McLaren have missed out on championship points by not dropping their downforce obsession. By concentrating on an aspect which is now really just a throw back to an earlier aero dominated period, they could’ve scored better points this season and not left two ex World Champs scratching around behind the top ten for another year. Probably their last year in F1 in fact.