Zak Brown admits McLaren missed its development targets with its 2023 Formula 1 car over the winter and is likely to be off the pace at the opening race after a tough pre-season test so far.
McLaren was honest about its expectations when launching its new car earlier this month, stating it was not totally happy with the initial specification but hopeful it will make strides with an upgrade mid-season. So far the team has not shown any eye-catching pace during the opening two days of testing, and with team sources suggesting the car is lacking performance, McLaren Racing CEO Brown says he’s not expecting big things from the opening round.
“It’s hard to know until we get going,” Brown said. “We already set some goals for development, which we didn’t hit. We felt it was better, to be honest about that.
“Like everyone we have a lot of development coming, so we are encouraged by what we see around the corner. I think we will be going into the first race off our projected targets and it’s hard to know exactly where that means we will be on the grid.”
On the opening day, McLaren was also the only team not to complete 100 laps in total, although it improved on that figure on day two and Brown says clean running is key if the team wants to be competitive.
“Last year with our brake issue it stopped the development of some other items — issues we were working on to make sure we fixed the problem. Then we came into Bahrain sub-optimal from a performance standpoint (and) just made sure we got through the race.
“I’m very proud how quickly the team did react, as we had about a week to solve the problem. But I think that did hurt us at the start of the year so I think it’s important that we have a normal test session to start the season.”
The caution hasn’t dampened Brown’s hopes for a step forward by the end of the season, however, as he targets leading the midfield.
“We want to be in the top four by the end of the year. Last year was a bit disappointing. Our aspirations are to get back to the front. That will take a little bit more time; we’ve got all the technology and infrastructure that’s either in or going to be completed this year, so that’s exciting. We have some developments coming but so does every other team in Formula 1, so we have to pick up the pace.”