McLaren executive director Zak Brown believes his team has found performance gains with upgrades introduced at the Spanish Grand Prix based on Friday practice.
Reliability issues during pre-season testing limited McLaren’s running and left the team needing to make modifications to its car ahead of the opening race in Australia. That work pushed back the introduction of a number of new parts, but in Barcelona McLaren ran with a radically updated nose and bargeboard assembly, and Brown said that the early signs are encouraging.
“So it is just initial findings – the drivers are happy and feel like we’ve progressed, the engineers are happy and feel like we’ve progressed,” Brown said. “So what we expected to see as far as improvement, we are seeing. The track conditions were tricky, and the track [was] evolving, so I think we’ll know more tomorrow after qualifying and then ultimately the race, but the early indications are we’ve taken a step forward.”
Fernando Alonso was sixth quickest in FP1 while Stoffel Vandoorne ended both Friday sessions in ninth place, although both cars were comfortably over a second off the fastest time in the two sessions.
Asked if he feels like McLaren’s 2018 season starts this weekend, Brown replied: “No the 2018 season started for us in Australia, just like everybody else.
“I think everyone, or almost everyone, brings development to Barcelona. We certainly have, but so have many teams in the pit lane but our season in Australia.”
Brown also said that it would be unfair to suggest the current car is how the McLaren should have looked in Australia following the delay of a number of planned upgrades.
“Ultimately when you’re developing you have a variety of plans and some things go on schedule, other things not,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about this car in Australia, but I think there’s more than one development piece that wouldn’t have been in Australia. So no, I think some things were on course, and some things weren’t.”