McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferran says a variety of factors have led to the team not developing its car significantly during this season.
The Japanese Grand Prix saw the two McLarens drop out of qualifying in 18th and 19th respectively, with only a crash for Marcus Ericsson preventing them being the slowest cars in Q1. Fernando Alonso explained after the session that the McLaren had not been developed to the same extent as its rivals’ cars this year, and de Ferran — who was appointed as the team’s sporting director following the departure of racing director Eric Boullier in July — says a number of aspects have added up to that lack of progress.
“It’s a variety of things,” de Ferran said. “First, I think we needed to gain an understanding of some of the issues that we were having, what was the root cause of these issues. Some of the developments that we have tried didn’t quite work, and then you have to go and understand why that is. And that happened earlier in the year.
“We have brought a few things, but it’s a race of development as well, as you know, so you don’t live in an absolute world in that sense.
“Lastly, I think there is a lot of truth to the fact that we are very focused on next year’s car and trying to make a better car so we can be more competitive. I think the car this year on certain circuits really exposes some of the weaknesses that we have.
“In Singapore, we had a very good race. Fernando for part of the race held fastest lap in a very genuine way, and we finished in what I thought was a very strong seventh position. (But) there are certain circuits that we go to that are very difficult for our current package.”
However, de Ferran is encouraged by the technical structure McLaren now has in place for the future after a number of changes to personnel during this year.
“We have two key directors who are in charge of the technical side of the team — Andrea Stella who’s performance director and Pat Fry as engineering director. We have a huge team. Essentially those are the two guys in charge. When Simon (Roberts, chief operating officer) is essentially running the team and coordinating all the work, my feeling is it’s working quite well.”