A new line-up and new power unit, but McLaren boss, Zak Brown prefers to be realistic about the team’s chances, as does Andreas Seidl.
In the midst of the disaster that was the re-partnering with Honda, it was easy to forget that McLaren is the second most successful F1 team in terms of drivers titles, with 12 to its credit, and is only one behind Williams and Mercedes in terms of constructors’ titles.
Though a number of the Woking team’s titles came during its previous partnership with the Three Pointed Star, as the wraps were removed from the team’s 2021 contender, team boss, Zak Brown preferred to keep both feet firmly on the ground.
“The field is unbelievably close,” admitted the American. “I think challenging for the championship would be unrealistic given the journey that we’re on.
“All we can hope for, and are striving for, is to close the gap to Mercedes, who we anticipate to be the fastest team again in ’21,” he continued. “The rules haven’t changed significantly so I don’t think 2021 will look much different from 2020 for the entire grid, other than expecting it to get even closer.
“We went into Abu Dhabi with the ability to finish third, fourth, or fifth,” he says, referring to the battle with Racing Point and Renault last year, “and I think it’s that close, and anticipate it being even closer this year.
“So all we can really do is key off who is the fastest team and hope that we close the gap to the ’21 team.”
Andreas Seidl, the man who has arguably had the biggest impact on the team, agrees.
“There’s a lot of positive energy in the team regarding, let’s say, going into this season,” said the German. “Of course, in terms of driver line-up we will have, again, one of the strongest in the paddock. Also we will have the championship winning power unit at the back of our car.
“But you shouldn’t forget, as Zak mentioned before, the battle we were in last year,” he continued. “We have a lot of respect for these competitors we were fighting last year.
“We were fighting against full works teams which have an infrastructure in place, for example, which is a lot more up to date compared to what we are having in place at the moment.
“So that’s why we can be optimistic going into the season, but at the same time we need to be realistic about what is possible. We simply need more time in order to ensure we execute the plan we have in place in order to how we want to get back to the front.
“We need more time to put our infrastructure in place to be on a level playing field here with the teams in front and those of some around us.”
The team is also hoping to reap the dividend of a new windtunnel, one of several areas, along with an improved simulator, where the Woking outfit has had to inverst.
“The biggest topic is obviously the wind tunnel,” admits Seidl. “It will take around two years before we can actually see the first benefit of this new wind tunnel, which is crucial on the development side of the race car. Until then we simply have limitations.”
“Our main goal is simply to make the next steps as a team, with the car and the way we work together,” he concludes. “We want to get closer again to Mercedes and Red Bull, because these steps are key in order to get back to the front again at some point in the future.”