McLaren has been accused of hiding its true potential during pre-season testing and deliberately taking its foot off the pedal on Day 2 and 3 of the event in Bahrain.
Daniel Ricciardo had topped the time sheets during the morning sessions of both Day 1 and 2. It was speculated at the time that a lot of it was possible owing to the team’s unique solution to a rule chance that has seen it redesign its car to limit rear downforce.
The size of the diffuser strakes at the rear of the car has been limited and the aerodynamic team at McLaren took the creative option of increasing the size of the strakes by altering the design of the car floor.
McLaren technical director James Key was left rather surprised by the fact that his team was the only one to catch on to this loophole.
“It’s a normal design idea. I think we are maybe a bit surprised that we are maybe the only team with that,” Key said.
“I think it’s always nice for a team to come out with an idea which is unique, you know?
“Credit fully goes to our aero department and the guys in the rear aero group for realising that there was an opportunity there to use the new regulations in such a way, so full credit to them.
“It’s just one feature of many in an area which changed for this year.
“It was a little bit baby steps to get us to this week and hope that we could be reliable, but fingers crossed, so far it’s been quite reasonable.”
McLaren also managed to bolster its ranks with the acquisition of Ricciardo and the switch to Mercedes power this season is believed to be a great piece of business by them.
It was speculated that they would struggle during pre-season owing to the huge re-structuring required in the design of the car to incorporate the Mercedes power unit. However, they were first out on track.
Sky Sports journalist Ted Kravitz believes they were so good on the first two days that it left Mercedes “spooked”. The Silver Arrows then instructed McLaren to back off and not let rivals know just how big an advantage they have.
“It was weird at the test actually, McLaren, they had a very good day one in the dusty conditions and then they had a good day two,” Kravitz said on the In The Fast Lane Podcast.
“And then they went all sort of coy and they thought, ‘Oh my goodness, we better not show everything’.
“It’s like they were scared. They spooked themselves and they didn’t want to give anything away so they stopped setting quick times to put everybody off the scent. But they were very happy.
Kravitz said it is highly possible McLaren could be the second-fastest team behind Red Bull come the opening race week in Bahrain.
“That was them saying globally, everything is looking optimal in the new McLaren,” he said.
“There are going to be some doubts about whether they will be even faster than the factory Mercedes team as well. Some people have got McLaren in second behind Red Bull.”
Meanwhile, former F1 driver David Coulthard predicted tension between the two drivers at McLaren.
“This is a great test for Lando,” Coulthard said.
“In Carlos Sainz, he had a quick teammate but also one that was pretty easy going and part of knowing your competitors is knowing your teammate.
“And with Daniel, he’s easy-going off track but he is pretty ruthless on track and has that racer’s heart and edge, which we saw come out when he was alongside Max and Seb.
“It will be a difficult time for Lando.”
Ricciardo will be very optimistic that he can continue from where he left off last season and add more podium finishes to his tally this year. Some race wins will be the icing on the cake.
Where do you believe McLaren will find itself at the end of the season?