McLaren expecting challenging start to the 2015 season after troubled testing
But Kevin Magnussen says car is "very predictable and smooth"
By Pete Gill and William Esler in Barcelona
Last Updated: 16/03/15 2:22pm
McLaren have warned their new car may only prove competitive from the European leg of the 2015 season onwards.
After a giant leap forward on Friday, when the MP4-30 completed over 100 laps for the first time this winter, McLaren stepped backwards on Saturday, the penultimate day of pre-season testing, when an oil leak restricted the team to just 39 laps.
But while McLaren’s hopes of finishing the season-opening Australian GP appear to be remote, the team are adamant that their new car will come good by the time the F1 paddock returns to the Circuit de Catalunya for May's Spanish GP, the fifth round of the season.
“It’s true that we haven’t done as many laps as we wanted but we will recover,” vowed team chief Eric Boullier. “By Europe we should be more competitive.
“We won’t be as ready as we would have liked [at the start of the season]. Reliability is a concern – clearly.”
McLaren’s new engine providers Honda appear to be enduring a repeat of the struggles the bulk of the field endured a year ago at the start of the sport’s turbo era, and the team will only learn around the time of the Melbourne curtain-raiser how many engine upgrade ‘tokens’ they will be allowed to use during the 2015 campaign.
It’s believed that Honda used two different engines over the course of the opening three days of the final winter test at Barcelona – half the amount they will be permitted to use without penalty through the whole of the season.
“Four engines is going to be a challenge – but not only for us,” acknowledged Boullier.
However, amid the general gloom and doom that has enveloped McLaren this winter, signs of optimism are starting to emerge. According to Boullier, “everything is working as it was designed to work”, including the cooling systems at the rear of the ultra-thin MP4-30 – albeit at relatively low temperatures and on modest length stints.
Moreover, the car’s behaviour has met with the approval of the team’s drivers, with Kevin Magnussen, standing in for Fernando Alonso while the Spaniard recovers from his crash last week, positively effusive when asked to compare the MP4-30 to last year’s McLaren.
“It is very consistent, very predictable, very smooth in a way and just drivable, whereas last year’s car probably had more downforce, but it was much more sharp and on the limit and unpredictable," the Dane said.
"That on many occasions was a problem because, for example, when you wear out your tyres and the rear starts to move around more you want a predictable car. The front end of last year’s car was much less predictable and sharp and this year’s car is much smoother and predictable and driveable. There is a way to go yet with this car, but it is a completely new design and a new idea and I think it is a very good base. I think it is going to be a very good car, but maybe later in the season.”
In a video update, Alonso has declared himself “fine” and McLaren say they expect the two-time world champion to be given the “green light” to participate in the season-opening Australian GP.
However, should the Spaniard not be passed fit to compete in Melbourne, Magnussen admits it would be tough to to step in.
“It would be difficult because I don’t really have my own team and set of engineers to talk to all winter and have kind of been on the sideline a little bit," he explained.
"I’ve obviously followed everything that was going on, but it is different when you have your own team and can go there every day and work with them. It would be difficult, but if I have to I will be happy to do it.”