McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown admits he could see his team dropping to sixth in the constructors’ championship this season due to a tougher midfield battle.
2019 was an impressive year for McLaren as it bounced back from declining performance to comfortably finish fourth, ending up 54 points clear of Renault in fifth. However, Racing Point emerged with a Mercedes-inspired design that proved quick in pre-season testing, and with Renault also showing strong pace Brown says it will be difficult for McLaren to match last season’s performance.
“I do think this year is going to be tougher,” Brown told Sky Sports. “The whole grid, if you look at winter testing… Racing Point was clearly very quick with what appears to be last year’s Mercedes, and one would think it should be quick because it won the championship last year! They’re going to be very tough and I think they made the biggest off-season progress.
“Renault was very quick, Alfa (Romeo) was quick, the new Toro Rosso — AlphaTauri — was very quick, Haas put in a very quick time at the end of testing and Williams showed a lot more pace than they did last year.
“So I do think this year is going to be tougher than last year. I could see us sliding to sixth because a couple of others have challenged. I think it’s going to come down to reliability, drivers continuing to do a good job, team executing, because I think there’s not much pace difference between the cars.”
While Brown did not address wider happenings within the McLaren Group as it tries to raise funding in response to the COVID-19 crisis that has hit car sales, he says the team has the budget for upgrades this season but has been focusing on spare parts, given the relentless schedule in July and August.
“We’ll be bringing some toys as often as possible. But because of the frequency of racing, we’ve probably been focused more on spares than updates — I think a lot of the teams are, because we’re going to be doing three races in a row on the trot.
“So we’re going to make sure we have all our spares and then of course in Formula 1, to tackle the expense side of the sport, we’re now limited on upgrades for this year and next year so I think we’ll all do the best we can within the rules. But it’s definitely a new environment. Hopefully our car is strong. We were happy with winter testing but from what we can see, that midfield is going to be tighter than ever.”