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The case of McLaren & amp; Williams: Lost in isolation

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The case of McLaren & Williams
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M cLaren has 182 GP victories on the account. Williams offers 114 wins. This means that the two English teams are still in second and third place on the all-time best list. Far ahead of Mercedes and Red Bull. But the last victory of the two dinosaurs was six years ago. And at the moment you can't imagine that anything about this statistic will change in the next few years.

Williams will finish the 2018 season in last place. McLaren comes under increasing pressure in the battle for fourth place in the constructors' championship. At the moment the proud racing team from Woking is already in 7th place. One consolation: It can't go much further. Toro Rosso is 31 points behind. Managing Director Zak Brown bravely says: 'Our goal remains 4th. But we know that it will be difficult.'

The problem areas of the two cars are known. The Williams FW41 produces too little downforce and it is also unstable. As a result, the tires wear out faster. That unsettles the drivers. The cooling concept is ambitious, but it doesn't work. The Williams therefore shines with strongly retracted side pods, but what's the point if the rear end is open like a barn door as a punishment?

All attempts to solve the problems have so far failed. Sometimes it got even worse. The DRS did not work on the new rear wings in Silverstone. When the wing was closed, the current was not fast enough again.

McLaren has a Sunday car

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Alonso always has to catch up with his McLaren in the race.

McLaren has a car that often gets stuck in Q3 on Saturday and is good for points on Sunday. With Fernando Alonso inCockpit, quick pit stops and good strategy. The progress hoped for from the B version of the MCL33 has long since fizzled out. Alonso ties this to the slow development of the car. But the MCL33 has a fundamental problem.

It is only competitive if the rear wing is turned to the stop. So on routes like Barcelona, ​​Monte Carlo or the Hungaroring. If the rear wing is made flatter, the McLaren loses too much contact pressure compared to the surroundings. And it's too slow on the straights.

The engineers have realized that something is wrong with the concept. That is why Alonso tried a new front wing, baffles and underbody in Spielberg. It was an experiment in a different direction. Apparently with a positive result. McLaren wants to get the parts ready for the Hungarian GP.

Williams also wanted to bring an aero package to the car by the summer break. That should already be put on hold. When things go bad, there is a lot of politics involved. Guilty parties are wanted. And others in the second row sense their chance.

For Williams and McLaren, the question arises of how much time they should invest in the 2018 season. A major aerodynamic reform is due in 2019. Williams chief technology officer Paddy Lowe, however, refuses to give up everything: “It's definitely a temptation. But it is not in our team spirit to give up. We need to understand what is wrong before we move on. Otherwise we'll build in the same bugs again in 2019. ”

Lowe believes the cleanup work can be carried over to future cars. “It's not about a specific component that will be available in a different form next year. It's about a concept. ”

Williams only knows Williams, McLaren only McLaren

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The Williams technical department under Paddy Lowe is under criticism.

Is it a coincidence that the world champions of the 80s and 90s are now slipping into a crisis? No, there is a method. The problems are homemade, sometimes even on the same basis.

An engineer who worked for both teams explains: “Both are grown teams with loyal employees. Lots of people atMcLaren or Williams have never looked outside their own four walls. They don't even know how Formula 1 has developed, what it looks like with other teams, because they don't know anything else. Then if you tell them how the competition upgraded, they won't believe you. They live in their own world and from the great legacy of their racing teams. ”

At McLaren there is a second problem. There are too many bosses in the technical office. “One day you talk to one engineer, the next with another. Both are responsible for the same area, but neither is really responsible, ”remembers the same engineer whose team was a McLaren customer.

The structures that made McLaren an authority are the responsibility of others than those who had to take off their hats now. They originated in the Ron Dennis era. And they were never really abolished.

Dennis introduced work processes like those in mass production, he structured the technical office like a matrix with many management levels instead of a guru at the top. Stars on the drawing board like John Barnard or Adrian Newey were more and more suspect to him. In doing so, he partially revolutionized racing, but also expanded his own company into an authority in which everyone stood for success, but none for failure.

McLaren has lived on its own planet since then. For years people talked themselves and others into building the best chassis in the field. If the earlier feats weren't enough, the engine was automatically to blame. In the meantime, even the team management admits that this was probably a mistake. “We didn't have the best chassis last year. And the current car has even less downforce than the one from 2017, 'admits Zak Brown.

The 46-year-old American concludes:' We have to change our structures. We have a lot of good people who can't show their talent. The decision-making processes are too long. Communication too bad internally. And we need outside expertise to get to know new ways of thinking. '

Fernando Alonso agrees:' Last year we still had a few systems in our car that the regulations now forbid us. We couldn't compensate for this loss. The big aero package we brought in in Spain was a good move. But only for two races. We need more of it. We're doing a good job on the track. We have to improve off the beaten track. “

Problems cannot be solved overnight

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Can the team boss Zak Brown and Claire Williams turn things around again.

Williams finished the 2014 season in third place in the Constructors' Cup. But hardly anyone in the team noticed that a happy constellation was responsible for this intermediate high. The Mercedes engine was vastly superior this year, and the chassis engineers opted for the right concept more by chance than deliberately.

At the beginning of the hybrid era, it was still possible to use a low air resistance principle score. Today is the wrong way. The drive units produce plenty of power. Usable downforce now counts. Williams missed the jump.

McLaren did the opposite. Downforce at any cost, even if it's inefficient. The car is even more in the wind than a Red Bull, but the McLaren generates far too little downforce via the chassis compared to a Red Bull. And McLaren has to be compared with Red Bull because of the ambitions and the identical engine, whether they like it or not.

McLaren is also taking a risky path with its development program. Most of the time, large packages arrive at the car. If they don't work, the engineers are in the woods. Neatly developed in small steps. That helps understanding. Williams and McLaren should ask themselves why a small Swiss racing team keeps improving their car while you step on the spot or fall backwards.

Both problem children put a lot of pressure on the boiler. Poor results mean less revenue and even more shareholder and sponsor dissatisfaction. Nobody knows yet how Williams will pull his head out of the noose.

Rumor has it that the Grove racing team will use Force India staff when the lights go out there. But if the transfer of the key figures doesn't work out, Claire Williams may have to bite the bullet in the end and become the Mercedes B-Team.

At McLaren, it's even more complicated. There is no safety net. McLaren depends on the patience of its shareholders. Zak Brown is preparing Mansour Ojjeh and the sovereign wealth fund from Bahrain for a longer waiting period: “The problems did not arise overnight. You won't be able to solve them overnight either. '

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