Spanish GP: Why McLaren need upgrades to the MCL33 to work
Assessing McLaren's form so far in 2018 and how they have performed versus Red Bull and Renault after their engine switch...
By Jonathan Green
Last Updated: 09/05/18 6:00pm
McLaren will bring their largest upgrade package of the season so far to this weekend's Spanish GP - and the former world champions are hoping it will lead to a significant performance upgrade after an underwhelming start to 2018.
The Woking-based team may sit fourth in the Constructors' Championship - and their 36 points after four races is their best start to a season since 2014 - but the MCL33's pace has left a lot to be desired, particularly in Qualifying, where neither Fernando Alonso nor Stoffel Vandoorne has broken into Q3 yet, with the pair in fact falling further away from the top-10 shootout as the season has progressed.
But the team are expected to bring a suite of new parts for their car to Barcelona, with the MCL33's upgrade package expected to be the most substantial of any car on the grid.
And reports on Tuesday suggested the upgrades will include a 'unique' nose design.
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What are McLaren bringing to Barcelona?
The Spanish GP should see the true 2018 version of the MCL33 which team chiefs say will give a more accurate reflection of where they stand.
The late confirmation of the switch from Honda to Renault power for 2018 meant the team missed targets with their developments.
"We didn't turn up in Australia with the car we wanted because we were delayed for some reasons so a lot of parts and upgrades are on their way to hit the track," Eric Boullier, McLaren's racing director, said last month.
"For logistical reasons it's very likely going to be in Barcelona and from that point we will see performance-wise where we are."
They should also benefit from a fuel upgrade which Renault expect to provide improved engine performance.
McLaren share the same fuel providers - BP/Castrol - as the works Renault team, unlike Red Bull who use ExxonMobil.
McLaren's 2018 performances
|Qualifying result||Gap to Q3||Race result||Gap to podium|
|Fernando Alonso||13th||0.203s||7th||Lap down to leaders|
|Stoffel Vandoorne||14th||0.516s||8th||Lap down to leaders|
|Stoffel Vandoorne||16th||0.130s off Q2 spot||9th||10.0128s|
Where have McLaren been struggling?
Fundamentally the MCL33 has been lacking in downforce and straight-line speed, and this has been most apparent on Saturdays.
Comparing Q2 runs in the opening four races, McLaren have on average lapped over a second slower than the leading Red Bull, while they have been eight tenths down on the Renault works team.
McLaren are also yet to qualify within two seconds of a pole position time in 2018.
Fastest McLaren Q2 laps vs Red Bull & Renault lead car
|Australian GP||Alonso: 1:23.692||Sainz: 1:23.061||Verstappen: 1:22.416|
|Bahrain GP||Alonso: 1:30.212||Hulkenberg: 1:29.187||Ricciardo: 1:28.962|
|Chinese GP||Alonso: 1:33.232||Hulkenberg: 1:32.494||Ricciardo: 1:32.688|
|Azerbaijan GP||Alonso: 1:44.074||Hulkenberg: 1.43.232||Verstappen: 1:42.901|
And despite swapping the underperforming Honda engine for Renault power, the MCL33 has still been among the slowest cars through the speed traps.
McLaren Qualifying speed trap recordings
|Speed||Renault-powered car rank||Gap to leading Renault-powered car||Overall rank||Gap to fastest car|
|Fernando Alonso||325.3kph||1st||Lead car||10th||5.8kph|
Those disappointing performances on track have led to changes and restructuring behind the scenes.
Executive director Zak Brown was put in formal charge of the team's F1 operations by being given the title of CEO of McLaren Racing.
And Sky Sports F1 also understands that Tim Goss has been removed from his position as chief technical officer, in an indication the team realise their car-building efforts have not been good enough for 2018.
However, the MCL33 has tended to perform far better in race trim than in qualifying. Moreover, the team are currently fourth in the Constructors' Championship and have already amassed more points this year than they managed in the entirety of 2017 or in their first year with Honda.
"I know we have some developments in the pipeline, but we also know there is no magic bullet that will propel us to the front of the grid overnight," said Alonso.
"There has been a lot of work happening at the factory and there is still a lot of work to do - so in Barcelona it's a chance to evaluate some new things, see where we are, and determine the direction that we take with car development as we progress through the season."
McLaren vs Renault vs Red Bull race fastest laps
|Australian GP||Vandoorne: 1:26.958||Hulkenberg: 1:27.081||Ricciardo: 1:25.945|
|Bahrain GP||Alonso: 1.34.168||Hulkenberg: 1:34.667||N/A|
|Chinese GP||Alonso: 1.37.234||Hulkenberg: 1:36.881||Ricciardo: 1:35.785|
|Azerbaijan GP||Alonso: 1:47.449||Sainz: 1:46.856||Ricciardo: 1:45.419|
Will Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes make it back-to-back victories at the Circuit de Catalunya? Watch the Spanish GP exclusively live on Sky Sports F1 from May 11-13. Get Sky Sports F1.