McLaren’s chassis would have seen it delivering performance close to Red Bull’s level if it had been running a Renault power unit last season, according to Zak Brown.
2018 will see McLaren switching to the French power unit supplier after ending its deal with Honda following three years of struggle. Under new aerodynamic regulations, McLaren was pleased with its development rate last season but finished ninth in the constructors’ championship as it was also hurt by reliability issues on top of its power unit performance deficit.
Ahead of the new partnership, Brown admits McLaren has run simulations to see how it would have fared in 2017 with the Renault power unit and says the results suggest it would have been challenging at the front.
“You can quite easily look with GPS, and all the teams can do the same thing,” Brown told RACER during an exclusive interview. “In 2017 – because next season nobody knows – if we had the Renault power plant in there we would have been there or thereabouts with Red Bull. Some races ahead of them, some races behind them, but we would have been around there.”
However, despite Red Bull winning three races last season, Brown acknowledges the performance is only an estimate because the car itself could react differently at higher speeds compared to how it worked under Honda power.
“You ultimately don’t know what the car will do when it speeds up. You can have a general idea, but we’re not working our aero as hard coming into Turn 1 because we’re not coming in at the same top speed, so we know if we would have had X more top speed but that’s all by the engine, and then you don’t know exactly what you’d have done under braking and turn-in because you’d have been working the downforce differently.”