One of the lingering images of the first day of last year’s preseason test, at Circuit de Catalunya, was a three-wheeled McLaren in the gravel trap with only a handful of laps run, a precursor to a frustrating start to 2018 which team boss Zak Brown is keen to avoid this time around.
At the Autosport Show, Brown spoke about his team’s state of readiness ahead of preseason testing in Spain next month, “I don’t want to share in detail some of the things we’re doing differently this offseason than we did last season.”
“We’re doing things differently to be more prepared, not just with performance but we had a lot of reliability issues going into Barcelona testing last year. So we have taken some measures to get ahead of that.”
“We will continue to develop as all F1 teams do, on a weekly basis, and we’ll bring to Australia our most developed performance that we’ve been doing here since we started developing the car and having reliability programs to make sure.”
“One of the reasons why we were slower to bring performance (in 2018) is because we had reliability issues. You roll off the truck in Barcelona, instead of being able to get straight down to performance, you’re having issues — wheel nut issues, heating issues — you then stop focusing on performance and you start focusing on reliability.”
“The team did a good job to give us reliability coming out of Spain testing, to have cars both finish in the points in Australia. We’re in a better place performance wise and reliability coming into winter testing.”
It would be fair to say that ditching Honda at the end of 2017 and partnering with Renault did not reap the results expected as yet, but Brown remains convinced it was the right call, “We’re very happy with Renault.”
“The challenges that we had were not power unit related, those were our issues. The power unit I don’t believe was our challenge.”
“Honda of course continue to develop and do an excellent job, that doesn’t surprise us. I’m glad they’re still in the sport because I think that’s something that was being discussed by them internally.
“Renault ended the season with I think four or five podiums, won some races, so we are confident we made the right decision for our long-term future. To get a better racecar on the track is the challenge that we have ahead of us,” added Brown.
Last year, largely due to Fernando Alonso’s gutsy performances, McLaren finished sixth in the constructors’ championship, a result that will be a tough act to follow in 2019 with their all-new driver line-up of Carlos Sainz and rookie Lando Norris.