McLaren enjoyed a solid 2021 season, capped off by a stunning 1-2 victory for Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris in the Italian Grand Prix.
Nevertheless, the Woking team couldn’t hang on to its third spot in the constructors’ championship, which it took in 2020, and had to settle for fourth after a season-long fight with Ferrari.
McLaren’s MCL35 car particularly excelled on high-speed tracks thanks to a high efficiency and relatively low drag but it did suffer in low-speed corners. Technical director Key hopes to address some of those weaknesses and deliver a more balanced car in 2022.
“We did pay a lot of attention to drag on the 2020 car, and as we did for the ’19 car, that was a bit before my time, but I know that was a priority for that car and it all carried through,” Key said.
“Efficiency is good. I think what we’ve seen with straight-line braking, which is one of our strengths, and high-speed corners reflects the sort of performance we can generate with the nature of the car we have.
“What we’re missing is – we did work on this for 2020 and ’21 – try and generate that performance in low-speed. We know why we’re not quite there yet.
“The car isn’t quite as robust as it is in high-speed in the low-speed corners. A lot of the work that went into the ’21 car was to specifically try and address some of these problems.
“Unfortunately, it isn’t just a silver bullet where we switch it on and suddenly it’s great. It takes a while to get them to work. That’s why we knew Zandvoort would be difficult. Equally how we kind of knew that Monza would be strong.”
Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL35M
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
With Formula 1 changing to all-new technical regulations this year, producing cars that generate a much higher percentage of their total downforce from the floor, Key believes the rules reset offers a good opportunity to address those concerns, although it also means there are no guarantees the team’s new challenger will still excel on high-speed circuits compared to the opposition.
”I think it is more of a case of trying to have a car that more attacks its weaknesses rather than its strengths,” he explained. “The nature of the 2022 cars means it’s probably a little easier to maintain some of the strengths that we have, but strengths are all relative.
“We know that we had certain strengths in our car, but I don’t know where other people will be for next year, perhaps it’ll be a different scenario.”
“We’ve concentrated more on trying to have a more balanced car through various different conditions than we would have had now. That is what we would have wanted to do had the regs stay the same, the same process but done differently due to the regulations.”