D the protocol of the round speaks for itself. Stoffel Vandoorne spooled 393 laps in the two weeks of testing at Barcelona. The Belgian cracked the 100-lap mark on two days. On Thursday he managed a race distance without any problems. Fernando Alonso's workload was 167 laps 4 hours before the end of the test drives. Even on the last day of the test, the Spaniard remained unlucky. Alonso was on a fast lap when the turbocharger on his Renault engine exploded.
The background to the damage is curious. 'It has something to do with our oil leak on Wednesday,' indicated McLaren team principal Eric Boullier. Renault had a new drive unit installed for safety reasons. During the engine check on Friday night, some irregularities in the turbocharger occurred. Renault then decided to install the loader that was in the Wednesday engine in order to drive more kilometers on this component. The technicians did not suspect that the oil leak could have caused damage in this area. “A mistake,” admitted Renault sports director Cyril Abiteboul. 'We should have used a new turbocharger.'
Second engine change faster than the first
The McLaren mechanics were already routine when it came to changing the engine. The drive unit had to be replaced on Wednesday. Alonso was in the car that day too. The first engine replacement under real conditions took McLaren six hours. The second change took place in four hours.
That is still far too long. In the last year, most of the teams managed to switch the entire drive unit between the third training session and qualification in less than two hours. That will remain an illusion for McLaren. 'Even with more practice, we won't get under three hours,' regrets Boullier. That is the price of packing the components in the rear in a very small space. Other teams have the same problem. Your cars just don't break down that often.
The many defects have shown McLaren a weak point in the car. The MCL33 is built too complicated under the fairing. “Most of the time, they were just minor problems. But they cost us a lot of time every time, ”admits operations manager Matt Morris.
McLaren built too extreme
Too much time to the taste of the team management. The engineers have subordinated the concept of the 2018 car almost exclusively to aerodynamics. This is shown by the original rear axle with an upper wishbone outside the fairing and a tension strut that runs far inside, almost parallel to the fairing. Even aerodynamics guru Adrian Newey was worth a look at the idea.
But what use is the best aerodynamics if the repair work or setup changes to the complex packaging of the components suffer from the papaya-yellow tailor-made suit? The more difficult the car is to maintain, the more time there is in the garage. There is even some internal criticism. If you change your engine partner, you should give yourself a little leeway.
Nonetheless, Boullier faces his engineers: “If you want to get back on the road to success, you have to develop aggressively. We have an ambitious design that will eventually pay off. ”McLaren will no longer be able to completely solve the problem of long service times with this car. That would mean too much interference with the concept. 'Now we can only design special tools that make our work easier,' says the team.
Alonso on the level of Haas and Renault
Boullier wants a finish in Melbourne don't promise: “We drove too few kilometers for that. We can't say with certainty that we've seen all of the problem areas. ”In terms of speed, McLaren is satisfied with the many kilometers lost. “Fernando is happy with the balance. He says he saw enough to judge the car. Of course, that's not enough for our engineers. They want to see that backed up with data. ”
McLaren sees itself on a par with Renault and HaasF1. “If Fernando hadn't had to break off the lap, he would have clocked 1.18.6 minutes. On old hypersoft tires, ”says Boullier. His impression: “Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari are in the front. The group behind has moved closer together. And we're right in the middle of it. ”On the last day, Renault released the power for the first time, which should also be available in Melbourne. That should come back after the turbocharger defectbe in question.