McLaren insist there isn’t a problem with the design of the MCL33 despite a series of technical issues in pre-season testing.
The team made an inauspicious start last week when Fernando Alonso lost a tyre just a few laps into the opening day of the first test before Stoffel Vandoorne suffered an exhaust problem. The teething issues have continued this week, with an electrical problem, a hydraulic leak and an oil leak that resulted in the need for an engine change all keeping the car off the track in Barcelona.
Racing Director Eric Boullier has jumped to the car’s defence, claiming that these are little issues that aren’t linked to each other and that such issues are just part of the testing process. According to Autosport, Boullier is adamant the tight packaging at the rear of the car isn’t the cause of the issues, and that the team is convinced the concept of the car works.
Boullier is trying to look at thing positively, but admitted the lost track time means not everything will be fully tested before the team heads to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix later this month. Every time a new fault comes up, the testing schedule has to be rewritten and other areas prioritised. Alonso and Vandoorne have been able to put the car near the top of the timesheets when it’s worked, but they’ve mainly stuck to the softer tyre compounds, which are designed to be quicker anyway, so it’s still difficult to figure out where the car sits in the pecking order.
Alonso is also taking an optimistic view, insisting he isn’t too stressed about losing time and that he’d be happy to miss his final day in the car altogether. Yesterday’s problems meant the Spaniard spent over six hours waiting for his car to be repaired, completing just 57 laps. Although he’d rather have spent longer in the car, Alonso is adamant the team still learnt things about the car from his laps. Like Boullier, Alonso insists there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the car, but that new issues keep coming up every day.
While McLaren have suffered reliability problems in their three seasons with Honda, the team always insisted their chassis was one of the best on the grid – switching to the Renault power unit for 2018 was supposed to give McLaren the chance to provide it. By contrast, Toro Rosso, who now have the Honda engine, have run like clockwork throughout testing so far, only having a problem with a stall in the pitlane yesterday. Switching engine suppliers was supposed to show McLaren’s design and engineering work is still as good as it’s always been, but testing shows there are still question marks. Now is the time to discover problems though, and McLaren will be hoping this run of bad luck will mean they have a finely-tuned challenger by the time the lights go out in Melbourne.