McLaren suffered a rocky start to the 2022 season, with driver illness and brake issues dramatically limiting their running during testing in Bahrain. A poor performance in the Bahrain Grand Prix the following week saw the team start the season with no points.
Talking of the team's approach to upgrades for the season, James Key, Technical Director at McLaren, speaking in McLaren’s ‘Inside the MTC’ says the team identified key areas to improve performance early in the year, and credits the team for their hasty response.
“Everything that we wanted the car to do in terms of responding to a design or a development has worked pretty well.
“At the start of the year, we recognised a few things that would help improve performance, and we acted on them quickly and proactively. So, that's a real credit to the people involved.”
The payoff to the team's efforts was quickly visible, with McLaren’s best result coming a little over a month after their dismal opening event, in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Lando Norris netted the team 15 points with a P3 finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix, for a grand total over 22 points over the sprint weekend.
Key continued to delve into the team’s five to six race upgrade schedule, claiming that each one worked as expected. He also states the team are currently working on the next upgrade package, while several minor updates are also scheduled for the remainder of the season.
“With regards to the actual packages of updates we've done, it has been an aggressive approach,” admitted Key. “For each development step, we have done a lot of work on them, and they last for a duration of five or six races, and each package has then worked as planned, producing several tenths of performance each step, so we're happy with that.
“We've got another new package to come, which we are working on now, and then there will be a few minor ones to follow in the remaining races. I would say that we've brought a lot to the track and we've gotten what we wanted from it.”
Despite his positive outlook on McLaren’s upgrades thus far, Key recognises the performance deficit to the top teams. He admits the advantage of starting the season with a competitive car allows the top teams more leniency in focussing on upgrades which will yield the greatest results.
Ambitious as McLaren always are, Key sets this as the team’s target for next year as he deems their current upgrade schedule unsustainable due to the high intensity involved.
“However, I think the standards that we've seen within the top three teams show what you've got to be able to achieve,” he said. “If you start the season with a competitive car, you can adapt your development plans from there and do less than what we have done whilst being more focused on the areas that you feel will be the most prolific.
“That's where we want to be next year, as we wouldn't be able to maintain this aggressive level of development because it's full on. We can learn a lot from this year, and the team have done a great job to achieve what they have."