Why McLaren’s new recovery plan “more risky”

For those who can get past Zak Brown’s forthrightness – or as some would say ‘being an American’ – McLaren will be an interesting team to watch as the in season development programmes amongst the teams work their way through.

Aston Martin have what is described by team boss Mike Krack as a “continuous development” programme which is in itself a continuation of last years philosophy.




Aston Martin bring ‘continuous development’

“[We] want to have continuous development and bring updates all the time – sometimes they are a bit bigger, sometimes a bit smaller, but it is important to keep the development alive.”

Krack does acknowledge the team have an advantage this year over last.

“It’s much, much easier to develop from this base than to develop from the base we had last year.”

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McLaren development model different

McLaren however are ploughing a different furrow as new team boss Andrea Stella explained.

“The improvement of car performance issues should start in Baku,” Stella reveals.

“The improvement in Baku should affect an area of the car that it has been clear that – I think from the presentation of the car – we weren’t entirely happy with in terms of development.

“It’s just the first step, we would expect definitely another major upgrade, which will interest more areas of the car.

“It [the next step] will be much more apparent, what some may call like kind of a B-spec car. And then we expect to have a further round of upgrades in the second part of the season after the shutdown.



3 big upgrades for McLaren

“So, we have three main steps: Baku, later on before shutdown, and then after shutdown.

“And we hope that each of them will be able to provide a few tenths of a second, so that we put ourselves in a more realistic position to meet our ambition to become a top four car towards the end of the season.

“The model changes – which I prefer to call it rather than structure – affect this delivery of performance because it will accelerate the development rate.

“We will see the impact not in Baku, obviously, because what comes in Baku was released in design like two months ago, but definitely it will impact the next round of upgrades.”

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Timing of McLaren B-Spec crucial

Unlike Aston Martin, McLaren are placing all their hope on three big upgrades, the second of which Krack suggests is like a B-Spec car launch. Though the obscure timing of this 2nd upgrade will determine whether McLaren can come back this year from their poor start.

Aston Martin launched their ‘B-Spec’ car last season in Barcelona and it quickly became nicknamed the ‘green bull’ due its similarities with the RB18.

This work was clearly influenced by the input from Dan Fallows arrival from Red Bull, who had no input into the car launched at the start of the season.

If McLaren’s second big upgrade is much later than in Spain, its questionable whether they will have enough time before the summer break to optimise it properly.



Mercedes proved big upgrades hard to unpack

Mercedes last season also operated a three major upgrade solution to developing their car. Of course the W13 had other tweaks along the way, but the result of this methodology meant the team spent several race weekends trying to understand and optimise the big changes.

This approach clearly has greater risks than the Aston Martin style incremental method.

The big question is whether McLaren will deliver Zak Brown’s hopes which drove the recent shakeup at the Woking based squad.

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Brown claims team changes considered last season

“Under the surface, I wasn’t happy with the pace of the development of the racing car,” said Brown following the recent departure of Technical director James Key

“That was the second half of last year, if you’re going to look at the pace of development of some of the other teams where they started and where they ended, versus where we started and where we ended. So, you start having conversations.

“Of course, we had a team principal change towards the end of the year, which allowed me the opportunity to be more aggressive in working with Andrea, to give him the mandate to take a look at the team. And that’s exactly what he did.

“Him having been there meant he wasn’t starting from ground zero, and ultimately came up with a model that makes total sense to us and those internally, and went about starting to put those plans in place.

“So when we made the announcement, that’s something that had been in works for some time and was coincidental to our poor start to the season.”



Was Seidl too change resistant?

There are suggestions in Brown’s comments that Seidl was more change averse than Stella.

However, whilst Brown is responsible for changes made in the hope of delivering a faster pace of in season development, it is Stella who is responsible for the ’new’ model adopted to deliver this.

It could be McLaren, as did Mercedes, have bitten off more than they can chew by attempting to bundle up all the upgrades into 3 major changes to the car.

It’s by far a more risky approach than the one of constant evolution. Yet it may be a necessary evil for McLaren to get to where Aston Martin are now.

But that’s another year of Lando Norris contract run down.

READ MORE: F1 “no its you…”, “really, no its him.”

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