McLaren is pinning its season’s hopes on a major upgrade at next month’s Spanish Grand Prix, but the bloodletting for its poor start to the year has already begun, with the team reportedly axing one of its technical chiefs.
Tim Goss, a McLaren stalwart of almost 30 years, has reportedly vacated his position of chief technical officer (chassis) after just three rounds. Racing director Eric Boullier refused to confirm the reports, but he alluded to significant internal changes as the team attempts to address its lack of pace.
“I can just confirm that there is an ongoing thinking and an investigation and restructuring,” Boullier said. “But this is part of the life of a Formula 1 team and part of the evolution of a Formula 1 team, nothing else.”McLaren was fourth in the constructors standings with 28 points coming into today’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but the relatively lofty position belies the difficulty the team has had with its 2018 car.
The MCL33 was subject to an engine change late in its design phrase, with McLaren abandoning Honda after a fruitless three-year partnership for the greener pastures of Renault power.
It was not uncommon for McLaren to claim it had one of the best chassis on the grid in 2017, and it willingly built up expectations during the off-season after freeing itself of the underpowered Honda engines, but in all four qualifying sessions so far this season its car has been the slowest Renault-powered machine on the grid, behind both Red Bull Racing and the Renault works team.
It is in this context that the team’s results this season have been embarrassing to the motor racing icon, leading to the technical reshuffle.
Explaining the car’s lack of pace, Boullier (at right, above, with Goss) contended that the team’s pre-season performance targets hadn’t been ambitious enough, leading to what is billed to be a major overhaul for the Spanish Grand Prix, but the Frenchman played down expectations that the upgrade package will lead to a significant improvement.
“There is a new direction starting from Barcelona, but you can’t expect to jump everybody,” he said. “Obviously everyone is bringing parts and packages, especially at the opening races.”
Fernando Alonso said the team might have to rely on its rivals tripping up in the development process to make up ground, a far cry from the pre-season calls that the team would be competing with Red Bull Racing on merit for podium places.
“I think 95 percent of the paddock is bringing a new aero package to Barcelona, so maybe the gap will remain as it is or we will recover it a little bit or just lose a little bit of ground,” he said. “I think it is up to us to make the package work and deliver to expectations – and hopefully some others do not deliver.”