LE CASTELLET, France (Reuters) - McLaren know they have an aerodynamics problem with their Formula One car but it is not something that can be fixed in the wind tunnel, according to team boss Zak Brown.
The former world champions are fifth overall in the standings, an improvement on last year but some way off the pace of rivals using the same Renault engines.
Last weekend’s French Grand Prix saw double world champion and Le Mans winner Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne slow in qualifying and out of contention in the race. Alonso retired before the finish, Vandoorne was 12th.
“I think we have identified the areas in which we have a problem or problems. It’s in aerodynamics. It’s something that doesn’t show up in the wind tunnel,” Brown told reporters before the race.
“Therefore we can’t try and solve it in the wind tunnel because we can’t replicate the issue or issues in the wind tunnel. So we have to try and fix the issues at the racetrack.”
That has meant McLaren running different configurations of wings and floors as they experiment in free practice and search for solutions, and that will continue in Austria this weekend.
“We know what we are chasing. What we don’t obviously have yet is the solution in place,” said Brown.
“We’re not yet focussed on next year’s car...we are very actively chasing this issue to resolve it so it doesn’t carry over to next year.”
McLaren, who use the Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne, reviewed their operations in April and removed chassis head Tim Goss from his position.
The Toyota tunnel, used also by the Japanese manufacturer’s Le Mans 24 Hours-winning outfit and Force India F1 team, is not being blamed.
“It’s not a wind-tunnel issue,” said Zak of the problem. “The weakness just simply doesn’t show up in a wind tunnel, whether it’s Toyota’s or someone else’s.”
The once-dominant British team have not won a race since 2012 and finished ninth of 10 in 2017, the last of a failed three-year partnership with Honda.
A report in the Daily Mail newspaper last week spoke of a ‘toxic atmosphere’ within and suggested some staff were ‘in revolt’ at management, but Brown played that down.
“We have had, the management team, an overwhelming amount of support and notes and calls and meetings from everyone inside McLaren,” he said.
“It’s actually kind of rallied the troops in a certain type of way.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ian Chadband