McLaren CEO Zak Brown has written an open letter to McLaren fans admitting the team is entering the new season with a “realistic perspective” after some “minor problems” during testing.
McLaren are starting the season’s first race, the Bahrain Grand Prix, under a cloud after the Woking team admitted they had fallen short of development targets with the new MCL60.
With more words of warning than encouragement coming from Woking team HQ, it could be a tough start to the season for Lando Norris and his new team-mate Oscar Piastri.
While the team finished fifth last season, Brown admitted that this is not “where we want to be”, there are concerns that McLaren could drop even further this season, particularly in the opening rounds.
Brown says they remain “realistic” and that improving the car is the team’s “main priority”.
“Despite Lando securing a podium at Imola, we recognize that our finishing position in 2022 – fifth – is not where we want to be, but we are starting the new season with a realistic perspective,” he wrote.
“Last weekend we completed our pre-season testing in Bahrain ahead of the first round.
“While we didn’t get as many laps as we would have liked due to fixing minor issues with both cars during the sessions, it was a decent three days in the new MCL60s which provided a lot of useful data which we will analyse. this week.
Rest assured, improving our performance over the course of the season is a top priority and the team is working together to bring further developments to the track as soon as possible.
“Having said that, we know we can get more out of the existing package and we are very much looking forward to the first F1 race of the season in Bahrain.”
F1 2023 Predictions: Title winners, teammate battles, driver moves and much more
Ranked: How well did each team perform in F1 2023 pre-season testing in Bahrain?
Bahrain Grand Prix 2023: schedule, stats, weather forecast, how to watch
“We have the best young drivers in Formula 1”
The American believes in the arrival of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris, McLaren has “the best young driver line-up” on the grid today.
“I am very pleased to welcome our rookie Oscar Piastri to our F1 team,” he said. “The Australian comes to McLaren with an impressive resume, having won both the Formula 3 and Formula 2 championships.
“In the short time he has had to integrate with our team staff at the factory, Oscar has shown all his dedication to us and is determined to succeed on the track.
“Together with our ‘veteran’ Lando Norris, I have no doubt that we have the best young drivers in Formula 1.”
The Woking team also has a new team principal, Andrea Stella promoted to the role following the departure of Andreas Seidl to Sauber.
“Our new F1 team principal Andrea Stella is very experienced and, having been with McLaren since 2015, understands every aspect of our organisation,” said Brown.
“With major long-term infrastructure projects due to become operational later this year, the future under Andrea’s leadership looks extremely bright. They include our new production facility, simulation tooling and our own wind tunnel.”
Brown ‘trusts’ teams adhere to the budget cap
Brown also addressed the budget cap, the American being one of the most vociferous in calling for harsh sanctions for teams found guilty of violating it.
Last season it emerged that Red Bull had done just that, overspending $2.2 million en route to the 2021 world title. The team was fined $7 million and also committed 10 percent of their wind tunnel time.
Brown hopes this is the end.
“Last year there was a major change in the regulations,” he said, “and it will take time for the gap between the front and back of the grid to narrow. And the closeness to the competition will still be supported by the budget limit.
“While it was disappointing to see the limit breached last year, everyone involved has learned from the process and it is important to see the sport moving forward in this regard.
“I trust that there will be no repeat of these financial breaches in 2023.”