Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

McLaren has only had one proper upgrade this year – Alonso

2018 F1 season

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McLaren has only introduced a single significant upgrade to its car this year due to its ongoing technical problems, Fernando Alonso has said.

The team has admitted the MCL33 produces less downforce than last year’s. Alonso said the team is “working very hard and very deep into the weakness of the car”, which wasn’t apparent after winter testing.

“First we identified them in race three, race four. In Barcelona we introduced a new package with a new nose and different things and we recovered a little bit the level.

“So we performed well in Barcelona, in Monaco. But then we came back to our original problems and a lack of performance.”

The team chose to use Friday practice sessions during race weekends to concentrate on solving a fundamental problem with its car’s aerodynamics which it did not detect in wind tunnel testing.

“I think now after investing three or four Friday FP1s, doing just aero development and aero understanding, we know that maybe we compromised a little bit the race weekend and the performance in qualifying but we get a lot of information on those Fridays. I think now we are in a point of we know exactly what to do.”

However the majority of what the team has learned won’t lead to improvements on this year’s car.

“There are some fixes for this year but let’s say that 70% of the knowledge and the understanding of this car will be for next year’s project because it requires time, three or four months’ development and wind tunnel time et cetera. It’s probably better to invest for next year.

“Sometimes it’s good to go very deep into the problems and down in performance to understand the car. I see a much clear and brighter future now with all the problems and all the understanding now.”

Alonso said some of the development items the team has brought this year were “experimental” and did not deliver the expected gains.

“We had basically one upgrade this year in Barcelona. All the other races we brought small parts that they were not significant performance on it.

“Some of those parts were experimental. Some of those were negative, not positive. Overall we only brought one update. We were between seventh and 10th in Australia in the beginning of the year. We came back from seventh to 10th in Barcelona, Monaco. And then we are going back, back.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 29 comments on “McLaren has only had one proper upgrade this year – Alonso”

    1. Do you know how important driver input is to the development of a car?
      Can Alonso be partly responsible to not having a good car for some years due to misleading the engineers and not the best feedback? While Vettel and Hamilton have enjoyed better success despite switching teams. Or is it just bad luck /timing?
      Does anyone have insight regarding their feedback and development of a car?

      1. Driver input is important in discovering issues and feeding back to the designers. However if the designers gave him a donkey of a chassis then all he can do is point out the issues (which he appears to have done) and hope they fix them (which they do not appear able to do)…

        The issues with the car are that it basically does not act at all like they predicted in the wind tunnel or CFD systems… That is perplexing and worrying for a team that has so much knowledge. How they got to this point will likely turn into a book at some point as it looks like completely incompetent management. But then Williams are in the same boat which is strange too.

        I wish there was more testing allowed…

        1. Still I think the engineer and designer would have an easier task if something is point directly instead of the car is crap.
          Or if the driver can put some kind of priority in what needs fixing.

          1. I am not sure what you are expecting? Drivers are not Physicists… They have not spent years learning advanced aerodynamics. Alonso will expertly pass on information about how the car is handling. He will be able to describe in detail how the car slides in corners and how he thinks the balance is not right. He will however not be able to tell the team that the vortices do not appear to be generated at 70mph or that air appears to be detaching from the car at precisely 41cm behind the leading edge of the side pods….

            As to priority… It seems pretty much everything is a priority on the current car. There is a total lack of down force and the fact that wind tunnel and CFD systems to not appear to be generating data even close to real world conditions!

            It is a problem that is practically impossible to put right especially with the limit on wind tunnel time and on track testing. They need a pretty much totally new car designed from scratch on equipment that is working properly…

            1. “There is a total lack of down force”
              How is that possible…? Do you think they’ve put the wings on upside-down…?

            2. @BlackJackFan.

              You will have to ask McLaren that…

              And at the same time try to stop being pedantic… it is not a good look.

            3. Haha… very funny response…
              I just prefer discussions bereft of whimsical exaggeration…

            4. It was not exaggeration it was a figure of speech.

        2. Ferrari had same correlation problem between it’s wind tunnel and the track. It lasted for years (playing a minor role in Alonso’s departure) before they can fix it.
          I’m disappointed that McLaren faces the same issue but not all that surprised. If the richest team faces this kind of issue, then it’s not a matter of money.

        3. I do not think Fernando is a development driver. Sure drivers are not aerodynamicists, but there is a difference in how you tell the problem. “There is water in the car” can mean there is a leak in the floor, body or the car was parked in the ocean.

          All cars Alonso drove where already good and stayed at that level or where crap to begin with, but non actually got better with him in it.

          Don;t get me wrong, Alonso is great in getting the maximum out of what het got. But he is unable to give input to make what he got any better.

          Also always criticizing how bad it is instead of motivating the people doesn’t do ny good.

          1. There are very, very few drivers who can do what you’re describing. Actually, I can only recall Adrian Newey praising Damon Hill for this back in the days.

        4. Actually, it seems that during winter testing, Stoffel was complaining about an unstable rear axle, and as far as I heard, Fernando told engineering the back was stable enough.
          About the downforce levels: the engineers don’t need to hear that from the drivers: they can see that just fine on the telemetric data of the suspension. Raw numbers are all known, it’s the feeling and the trust you’ve got in your car that needs to be predictable and can’t be seen on the data. It’s hard to improve if the two drivers too often say opposite things.
          McLaren probably go with the input of their experienced guy, and don’t listen too much to the new kid… Button was a better match, on that level: At least the engineers knew better than to ignore half of the input.

    2. I wonder how much downforce last car really had. Didn’t they just drive with a high downforce setup compared to other teams? The cornering was apparently fine, just not the straights. Sure the engine had something to do with that, but can’t help feeling that the amount of downforce lost compared to this year is less then McLaren want us to think it is.

    3. This isn’t the first time Alonso has criticised McLaren (or Honda) for the lack of upgrades. Didn’t he criticise Ferrari as well during his stint there? One must wonder how useful that is. Team staff already knows what’s going on with the car development. Comments like this will not make it better for the team, but instead will create more negativity around the team. I don’t think this is wise of him.

      1. Oh well now with the hindsight Alonso’s comments aren’t that bad really. The headline was yet again kinda clickbait-y.

        1. Yeah it really helps to read the articles first.

    4. I’m currently reading Adrian Newey’s ‘House to Build a Car’. He describes multiple occasions where the wind tunnel data hasn’t correlated with the full scale car once on track, and how it resulted in him producing awful cars that were difficult to fix.

      If they’ve figured out the issue(s) (and aren’t just feeding Alonso false hope) then it makes sense to focus on the 2019 car. Here’s hoping they’ll be closer to where we expect them next year.

      1. Paul Strawbridge
        13th August 2018, 15:29

        With the ridiculous limits on windtunnel speeds and having to use a 60% model, the fia might as well go whole hog and ban windtunnels all together.
        Seems pointless if you cant test something in there that has a basis in reality.

      2. Just started reading that book myself! Fascinating to get a look into one of the brightest-ever minds in Formula 1.

    5. No wonder both the performance and the results since then haven’t been too great.

    6. So predictable. ALO is set to make an announcement about his future tomorrow. Today we read this. There is no guessing. Tomorrow he will announce he is out of McLaren F1 in 2019 and I would not be surprised if Ocon or Sainz takes his place before the end of this season.

    7. This is the predictable way ALO works. Tomorrow, he will announce that he is out of McLaren F1 in 2019. I would not be surprised if either Ocon or Sainz finish the season in ALO’s seat. He’s had it with F1.

      1. It’s never worked for him in the past but hey why change the habit of a lifetime.

        Maybe he’ll go to Formula E and chase that illusive QUADRUPLE CROWN

    8. I really read this:
      McLaren has only had one proper upgrade this year : Alonso
      ( of course according to Alonso himself ;)

      1. There has to be something what generates additional downforce in the car comapring to Vandoorne’s – that’s Alonso.

        1. Maybe he is heavier?

    9. Seems he’s staying and he thinks next year car is much better

    10. powered by HONDA!!

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