Key confident of McLaren recovery
With the MCL60 compromised by McLaren’s initial approach to the 15mm floor change rule, technical director James Key is confident that the Woking team will recover.
As a result of the widespread bouncing throughout 2022, the FIA, with the agreement of the teams, brought in a number of rule changes for this season.
Floor edges were to be raised by 15 millimetres, with the throat of the diffuser raised also. At the same time, the diffuser edge stiffness is increased and an additional sensor mandated to monitor the phenomenon more effectively.
Early tests with the 2023 model suggested that the car would be down on performance, consequently the Woking outfit opted to seek an alternative option. However, the call came too late for this to be available for the season opener, which explains Andrea Stella’s comments following the launch.
“Where this happened actually is when we took the 15mm floor step,” says Key, according to Motorsport.com. “So we all agreed that as porpoising protection, which was very sensible given at the time last year that was still quite a major issue. It began to improve for everyone as things improved during the year.
“That sounds very small, but these floors are huge and incredibly sensitive. Look at how much downforce it generates, massive. So when we did it on our car, it actually gave us a much bigger loss than anticipated. It seems to have affected different teams in different ways. And to a certain extent, it seems to be related to the floor edge geometry that you’re running at the time.
“If you look last year, there were two camps beginning to develop,” he continued, “one which we were in, and one which probably the majority of teams were in. And when we took that (15mm) step, it was a really big knock for us.
“And then trying to recover with what we knew at the time, and this was probably September time, we were thinking this is not working, we’ve actually got to change direction entirely with these geometries. Which is a big change, because they’re very big projects, and very complex projects.
“So I think the timing of the reg, and the fact that we took a particularly large hit, and then that it clearly wasn’t going to come back easily, meant that we had to change direction quite late.”
Rather than targeting Bahrain, Key says that the team first wanted to confirm that its package was properly developed and understood.
“It wasn’t like we were dawdling around and thinking what to do, and actually why don’t we do this,” he explained. “It was sort of forced upon us by a recognition that the new regs weren’t going to recover with what we knew from last year. That led to a completely refreshed and revamped approach to that area of the car.
“It takes a while to develop these things,” he continued. “We tried to get it for race one, it wasn’t mature enough. It would have performed a bit better. But with these floors, you’ve got to maintain stability, good correlation and everything else to guarantee that it’s going work, and it was a little bit risky for race one.”
Asked if the late timing of the regulation change was frustrating, he admitted: “Absolutely. I mean, it is frustrating because, to be honest, the route we’re on now seems to be pretty prolific, it’s doing what we hoped it would do.
“There’s still some work to do,” he added. “The development rate on that is so much higher than what we had. Had the reg been earlier or had we clocked the fact that actually you need to do a different thing with this four weeks earlier, we wouldn’t be talking about it right now, to be honest.
“So it’s a bit it’s a bit of a shame, but we are where we are, and we’re just going to recover from it.”