McLaren intends to go to the limit on expenditure

McLaren says that it intends to match the top three Formula 1 teams in terms of expenditure once the sport’s new budget cap comes into effect in 2021.

From next year, teams will have to keep their spending to under $175 million per season. That will certainly cramp the style of teams like Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull who are used to being able to spend their way to success but is still a figure that the smaller teams on the grid can only dream of having on hand.

However for the resurgent McLaren team, which finished 2019 as ‘best of the rest’ in fourth place in the constructors standings, the budget cap represents a unique opportunity to get on equal terms with the top teams.

“There’s a clear commitment that we will run at the budget cap because obviously that’s the only chance to be able again to fight the big ones,” team principal Andreas Seidl told Autosport magazine this week.

“You need to be on a level playing field in terms of budget,” he explained. “[So] we will run at the budget cap, because obviously that’s the only chance to be able again to fight the big [teams].”

But despite McLaren’s commitment to matching the top teams in terms of expenditure in 2021, Seidl ruled out front-loading the effort by throwing even more money into their operation this year before the budget cap takes effect.

Seidl said that even if the team was handed an extra million dollars in 2020, there was only so much that was realistically achievable in the situation.

“You first need to be able to digest that and put a structure in place that actually can produce more output in this short period of time,” he explained.

“In the end there’s a limitation placed on the [computational fluid dynamics] side, on the windtunnel side,” he continued. “There’s only so much you can do, and aero will in the future be the key performance differentiator.

“This is why I’m not too worried about the budget gap not being in place in ’20,” he continued. “[I’m] also not too worried about the quotes I’m reading at the moment that it will be the most expensive year ever for the top three teams.”

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL34.
In addition, McLaren ends its engine partnership with Renault with a return to Mercedes power units from 2021, which will limit the advance development work that can be crammed into the next 12 months.

Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey has also said that he’s not concerned about the top teams throwing money at the problem this year before the new rules take effect.

“In 2020, all the teams will participate in effectively a dry run in terms of shaking out the bugs of accounting for the costs,” Carey predicted in October. “”Some teams had concerns or issues going on but they are increasingly supportive.”

But neither the new budget gap nor a wide-ranging overhaul to F1’s sporting and technical regulations is going to close the gap between the bigger and smaller teams overnight.

“They will have a head start simply because of where they are right now,” acknowledged Seidl of the current advantage held by the Big Three squads.

“They do a better job they have better methodologies in place, they have better processes in place and so on,” he added.

With that in mind, Seidl confirmed last week the latest changes in the McLaren management structure with the promotion of engineer Andrea Stella to the role of racing director.

“We have to keep this momentum up and simply have to keep on pushing in order to achieve our ambitious targets,” he noted.

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Seidl: McLaren now has 'clear aim' of more F1 podiums

McLaren’s return to the top-three last weekend in Brazil, courtesy of a spirited drive by Carlos Sainz, is a prelude to the outfit fighting for podiums in the future on “outright performance” says team boss Andreas Seidl.

After a dismal four-year period during which Formula 1’s second most successful team was but a shadow of its former self, McLaren has finally pulled itself out of its enduring slump.

The papaya squad’s sustained progress has moved it this year to the head of F1’s competitive midfield, a fourth-place position in the Constructors’ standings that it formerly sealed at Interlagos thanks to Sainz’s and teammate Lando Norris’ significant points haul.

“I’m happy for the entire team, everyone has done so much work throughout the year,” Seidl told Sky F1.

“Performing P4 for us is a big step forward, and a great motivation for all of us to keep working hard with the clear aim that at some point, that we fight for podiums down to our own outright performance.”

Sainz extraordinary drive in Brazil from dead last on the grid to third, helped by a bold one-stop strategy, undeniably added a coat of panache to McLaren’s overall achievement.

“He’s done a sensational job all year and he deserves it,” said Seidl.

©McLaren

Unsurprisingly, the Spaniard himself qualified his drive in the penultimate round of the F1 world championship as his best race ever.

“My best, definitely,” he enthused. “Because it was a normal race. It was dry, people were between one and two stops and we committed to a one-stop.

“I had to make moves on the first few laps and I did them. There was a move on Perez especially that was really, really good and from then on the tyre management kicked in.

“I managed to extend on the soft and then the management on the medium kicked in. Then I started passing Stroll, passing Lando [Norris] and other people, and all of a sudden I found myself in P8.

“Then, the decision came to either pit or not and we decided not to.

“For once we took a bit of a gamble and this time it paid off. The two SC restarts were probably the most difficult restarts of my life.”

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McLaren says Mexico setback 'an opportunity to learn from'

McLaren F1 boss Andreas Seidl says the Woking-based outfit has many things to take away from last Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix, starting with the fact that it still has to work to do “to become a better team”.

McLaren race was a story of starting near the front where it battled the usual suspects only to slide out of contention and mishandle a pitstop, leaving the papaya squad with zero points for the first time since Spa and more questions than answers.

At least there was a clear reason for Lando Norris’ botched pitstop, but both Carlos Sainz and Norris’ dismal pace on the hard tyre baffled McLaren.

“A painful Sunday for us, after having several good race weekends or good Sundays, for different reasons,” said Seidl.

“First of all, especially on the hard tyres, we didn’t have the pace we have seen in the last two days with the car.

“It is something we need to analyse and understand, if it was related to track temperatures being higher, or something else.

“Then obviously after having good starts with both cars, having the pitstop issue on Lando’s car destroyed his race and his race was over.”

Seidl admitted to being puzzled by the contrast in performance between qualifying and race day.

“Definitely in terms of pace it was a setback,” he added. “And actually it was the first time in quite some time that we have seen a different pace on Sunday compared to the other two days of the weekend so we simply need to analyse what the issue is.

“Lots of opportunities today to learn from and simply was a reminder that we still have a lot of work to do to become a better team.

“A day like this is part of the process for our team to become a better team.”

Seidl admitted that McLaren was lucky to conceded only a handful of points to its main midfield rival – Renault – in the Constructors’ standings, thanks to all cars from the top teams tying up the first six spots in the race’s final results.

“As we always said it is not done until it is done because you just need a strange race and suddenly someone scoring big points,” said the German.

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McLaren remains alert to Renault threat for P4

McLaren might have edged slightly further ahead of Renault in Japan, but the team is still anxious of the threat posed by the French squad in the battle to be ‘best of the rest’ in the constructors standings.

McLaren scored ten points in Suzuka with Carlos Sainz finishing in firth place. But Renault picked up nine points with both Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg both finishing in the top ten.

It’s left McLaren with a 34 point lead over Renault for fourth place in the championship, with just four races remaining. A single bad weekend for either team could dramatically alter the balance of power, as McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl is keenly aware.

“Our position in the constructors’ championship is not yet secured and we must keep pushing to ensure we leave nothing to chance,” Seidl said in the team’s preview for the Mexican Grand Prix.

“As we head into these final few races, our focus remains on maximising the opportunities to score points through work at the track and back at the factory.

“It’s still all to play for and I look forward to some exciting racing.

“We go to Mexico with clear objectives in mind,” he continued. “The high altitude at the track poses an interesting challenge when setting up the car on Friday. We’ll be working hard to optimise our aero package for qualifying and the race.”

Also on the agenda is doing whatever is possible about securing sixth place int he drivers championship for Carlos Sainz.

Despite his success in Suzuka, the Spaniard remains at high risk of being caught and passed by Alexander Albon, now that the the Thai driver has transferred to the Red Bull team.

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) McLaren signs autographs for the fans.

Albon was fourth in Japan, meaning he cut Sainz’ lead in the standings to just 12 points.

“Jumping to sixth position in the drivers’ championship after another strong weekend in Suzuka is encouraging,” Sainz acknowledged. “It only adds up to our motivation to keep pushing until the end of the year.

“It won’t be easy to keep that position but I’ll fight for it with everything we’ve got,” he promised.

“I’m excited to get back in the car for the Mexican Grand Prix. It’s an amazing event and a challenging circuit, so I’ll be making sure I give it my all and aim for good points once again.

“I enjoy the city a lot and how all the Mexican fans support the grand prix, so I look forward to meeting many of them over the weekend.”

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No 'spygate' impact on Mercedes/McLaren says Wolff

Last week’s surprise announcement that McLaren had signed a deal to resume using Mercedes power units in 2021 sent quite a few shockwaves through the F1 paddock in Sochi last weekend.

McLaren used engines from the German manufacturer from 1995 until 2014. But that relationship was strained in 2007 by the explosive revelations subsequently dubbed ‘spygate’.

The controversy ended up with McLaren being stripped of its championship points for the season and handed a $100 million fine, after the team was found to have received confidential technical information from a high-placed Ferrari employee.

At the time, McLaren was effectively operating as Mercedes’ works team. The Silver Arrows returned to Formula 1 in its own right in 2010 by taking over the Brawn GP team, and McLaren subsequently ended their partnership.

A disastrous three-year alliance with Japanese manufacturer Honda ensued which came to an end in 2017, with McLaren using Renault power units in the last two seasons before deciding to return to the Mercedes camp at the end of next season.

Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff said that the events of over a decade ago had no part to play in the future relationship between the two companies.

“I think that it was a dark time for McLaren and Mercedes back in the day,” Wolff said at the weekend. “It cost us both quite some money to remedy the actions of individuals.

“[But] we have moved on,” he insisted. “It’s 12 years later, and it hasn’t played any role in the decision.

“In this respect there are no feelings at all,” he added.

Even so, the new deal between McLaren and Mercedes has sparked a number of conspiracy rumours, such as whether the German team is setting up McLaren to take over as the ‘works’ operation in advance of a possible departure from F1 in favour of a focus on the all-electric Formula E championship.

That’s been fuelled by Mercedes’ change of heart about supplying engines to McLaren. When McLaren previously sought to return to the Mercedes fold in 2017 they were turned away, forcing them to partner with Renault instead.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

© Mercedes

“I think the situation has changed a little bit,” Wolff explained. “We were very strict straight from the beginning that we said we want to give 100 per cent concentration on our works team.”

But as Mercedes started expanding the number of teams it supplied engines to, it found it helped the development program.

“We had three customers back in the day, and we actually learned and realised that it was an advantage of having more power units out there.

“We believe that from a power unit side, there is more learning for us in this exercise with having more competitive customers, adding to the two that we have [currently Racing Point and Williams].

“We rate McLaren strongly,” he added. “The steps that Zak and Andreas have initiated already look very promising. So the advantages outweigh the potential deficits of fighting a hard competitor like McLaren in the future.”

The new deal has also sparked speculation that Fernando Alonso might be tempted back to the team by the new engine deal received short shrift.

Alonso was racing for McLaren at the time and was one of those at the centre of the ‘spygate’ revelations. CEO Zak Brown stated that the new McLaren/Mercedes partnership placed no limits on who the team’s drivers would – or would not – be in future.

But team principal Andreas Seidl told the media in Sochi on Sunday that he had every intension to move forward with the current young line-up of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.

“I think we have not a single doubt in terms of these two guys being the future for us,” he said. “[They have been] great for us. Great for the team to have this clarity also.

“It helps us again to focus on our core mission, which is to develop, produce a quicker race car and get better and better as a team as well.”

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McLaren has clear target for Sochi, and a balancing act

McLaren F1 boss Andreas Seidl says his team heads to Sochi with clear objectives but also with the need to maintain its focus on its 2020 prospects.

McLaren left Singapore with more points than its mid-field rivals, courtesy of Lando Norris’ P7 finish and the performance added by the MCL34’s latest updates.

“Following an exciting race in Singapore, we head to Sochi looking to take the positives from the weekend into the Russian Grand Prix,” said Seidl in McLaren’s preview.

“We showed good race and quali pace in Singapore, proving that the upgrades we’ve brought throughout the season have done their job.

“It’s now up to us to ensure we carry that performance into the final races of the season.”

The Woking-based outfit enjoys a 22-point lead over Renault in the Constructors’ standings, but that cushion doesn’t allow for any let up.

However, with McLaren devoting more and more resources to 2020, the papaya squad now faces a difficult balancing act as it manages its short-term goals with its longer-term ambitions.

“We are committed to pushing as hard as we can to maintain our position in the midfield, however our long-term goal is to keep pushing forward into 2020.

“So now our task is to balance these two objectives and maintain perspective of the bigger picture.”

“Heading straight to Russia from Singapore poses a significant operational challenge, however the whole team is focused on the task at hand and performing to the best of our ability this weekend. We head to Russia with our objectives clear.”

©McLaren

At Sochi, Carlos Sainz will be seeking an upturn in his fortunes after three successive pointless races in which circumstances beyond his control undermined his efforts.

“The three first races after the summer break have not gone our way but I’m fully confident we can turn this around,” said the Spaniard.

“The car is performing well and the whole team is focused. There is no reason why we shouldn’t keep pushing forward and luckily the next grand prix is just around the corner.”

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McLaren will fight for P4, but won't 'compromise' 2020 car – Seidl

Andreas Seidl says McLaren will defend its fourth-place position in the Constructors’ standings “for as long as possible” but not to the detriment of its 2020 car and plans.

McLaren walked away from Spa and Monza with just a single point on the board, courtesy of Lando Norris’ 10th place finish in the Italian Grand Prix.

The shortfall has allowed Renault to reduce its gap to the Woking-Based outfit in the championship to just 18 points, setting up a fierce battle for the honorary title of ‘best of the rest’ in the last seven rounds of the 2019 season.

Seidl says McLaren will hang on to fourth for as long as it can, but not at all costs.

“Of course, we want to fight for this P4 as long as possible but at the same time for me it’s a lot more important to make the next step with next year’s car,” Seidl said.

“So I don’t want to compromise next year by suddenly switching the focus on this year again.

“We have a plan in place for what we want to do this year, we have a plan in place for how we approach next year.”

And McLaren’s plan for the remainder of the year is to continue to implement its upgrade programme.

“We plan to bring parts – not huge updates but just continuously bringing small things – for the next two or three races at least,” Seidl said.

“We just have to see when we fully switch then to next year’s car and the development side. It’s still something which is open.”

As Formula 1 leaves behind its power circuits and moves on to Singapore, Seidl hopes the marina Bay track will restore the team’s performance level.

“It’s obviously disappointing that we go away with only one point and with Renault scoring so many points,” he added.

“It’s important now as a team to re-group, reset, analyse what happened in detail on the pit stop side and then hopefully with putting more downforce on we are back to where we were before the shutdown in terms of being competitive.”

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Fernando Alonso to visit McLaren at Monza

Fernando Alonso will return to McLaren for the Italian Grand Prix, albeit has a mere observer with the Woking-based outfit.

Alonso makes his return to the F1 paddock amid a rally-raid preparation programme with Toyota that should see the Spaniard contest the 2020 Dakar rally scheduled to take place early next year in Saudi Arabia.

McLaren F1 boss Andreas Seidl said that the two-time world champion “will come as an ambassador and visit us”.

Interestingly, Seidl revealed that Alonso could have been an option for the team at Spa last weekend if it had been clear from the outset that Lando Norris, who suffered a foot injury over the summer, had been unable to driver.

The worry was short-lived however and Norris showed up at Spa fit and well, while McLaren reserve driver Sergey Sirotkin was in the wings just in case.

“With Lando being clear that he felt fine to race, the back-up would have been Sergey,” explained Seidl.

“It’s a different situation if we know early enough, to look for alternatives. But it’s something we discuss when it comes to that situation.

“Our reserve driver is Sergey, so we have the seat ready and everything, and we have prepared him in the simulator.”

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