Andrea Stella has confirmed McLaren is “flat out” in its bid to bring development to its struggling car as it has ambitiously set a target of challenging the frontrunners in F1 by the end of the year.
The team has endured a problematic start to the campaign, sparked by the fact it failed to hit its targets over the winter, resulting in its anniversary edition MCL60 slumping down the pecking order.
Stella has made no secret of the fact that from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix onwards in late April, regular upgrades will be brought to the car, with no stone being left unturned at present.
Speaking in an article on the McLaren website, Stella said: “Good development work has happened in the background at the factory, with the whole team working flat out, and we see weekly enhancements of the performance associated with new components.
“We are happy with the rate of development. As always, the challenge is to retain this steep rate of development. We learned from the issues we suffered last year – we reviewed them, and this will help to sustain development.”
Outlining the goals, Stella added: “The objective is to make a quicker car in qualifying and the race and to improve our level of tyre degradation.
“We want to out-develop our competitors and establish ourselves at the top of the midfield in the short term. Then, towards the end of the season, we want to start to challenge that next group.
“If we maximise our potential through development, we think this is a realistic target for the year. We do this through setting clear objectives for the team and the various working groups, and with efficiency and teamwork.”
McLaren pace not as bad as feared
Stella, however, feels the pace of the car was a step ahead of where the team believed it to realistically be, in particular as he says tyre degradation at such an abrasive track as the Bahrain International Circuit “was competitive”.
Highlighting where McLaren stands at present, Stella said: “With the current level of competitiveness of our car, if we do a good job, we have the opportunity to be in the points. If we don't, then we're outside.”
McLaren working with Mercedes on PU fix
The nature of the issues experienced in Bahrain was a surprise, however, to Stella and his team.
Norris, in particular, has been forced to take a new power unit for this weekend's race in Saudi Arabia, with the British driver declaring the system used in Bahrain to be “finished”.
Detailing the specific problems that have been dealt with as a priority, Stella said: “The first one on Lando's car was power unit related.
“It wasn't necessarily visible in anything other than the outcome, but it was effectively because of the energy deployment stopping, which was caused by a software problem. This proved costly for Lando, as it caused him to lose two positions.
“The second problem was that the pneumatic pressure was starting to drop, just after the start of the race, with a linear trend.
“There's a limit at which you need to refill the pneumatic bottle and re-establish the pressure, and this meant that we needed to refill the pneumatic bottle every 10 or 11 laps.
“The final issue from a reliability point of view was an electrical problem on the steering column harness, which meant the steering wheel wasn't working properly on Oscar's car, and he needed to retire.”
“Some of them were a surprise, and we weren't entirely sure why they happened at that exact time in Bahrain, but we're working to validate this, and we're confident enough that the short-term mitigations should be sufficient.”