McLaren are cautiously optimistic that their 2022 car design could help Daniel Ricciardo return to his usual high standard this season, after a largely subdued year in '21.
While Ricciardo scored McLaren's first victory in nine years by claiming the win at Monza, 2021 was mostly a year of disappointment for the Australian as he adjusted to life with McLaren after racing with Renault in 2020.
With 2022 representing a fresh sheet of paper for all the teams and drivers due to the revolutionary new rules, McLaren Technical Director James Key believes the issues that held Ricciardo back in 2021 will have been eased considerably on the new car.
"We were aware of aspects of weaknesses we had; some circuits really suited his strengths and we could see that the performances were strong, and others which were the opposite direction," Key told media, including RacingNews365.com, during testing in Barcelona as both McLaren drivers performed strongly throughout the three days.
"We could see in the data what those strengths and weaknesses [were] as well but, given the complexity of these cars, particularly with the previous aerodynamics and set-up options, there wasn't a silver bullet – you had to develop your way out of them.
"So given the fresh opportunity for the new cars, there was a good opportunity not to fall into the trap of having the negative behaviours, which we've been keeping a close eye on.
"It's not to say we've solved some of those things but, certainly with a new opportunity, we were very aware of what we needed to work on."
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Key: The MCL36 still feels like a McLaren
But Key also hinted that there may still be some adjustments needed from Ricciardo to get the best out of the MCL36, as it still retains some of the usual characteristics McLaren build into their cars.
"So the same kind of phenomena and challenges with things like aero
sensitivities and tyre sensitivities and other things – they are still
there, but they're all different in some way or need to be developed
differently," Key explained.
"There's certainly McLaren traits in there, it does feel like a McLaren, but it's not the extremes that we had before.
"We can see that strengths and weaknesses are beginning to emerge and we're obviously looking at where we can try and improve the weaknesses."
Key said that both Ricciardo and Lando Norris enjoyed the initial feel of the car, but that a wider data set is required to get a clearer picture of where they stand.
"I think fundamentally, both drivers have got on OK with the car," he said.
see how we go in Bahrain at a different track, and so on. But there have
been no major upsets, it's all worked as we expected it. We know we've
got a couple of areas we need to improve on for sure. But I would say it's been maybe even an easier car to drive so far.
"Overall, I would say we've taken a step in the right direction but, for sure, there's still some work to do."
Video: McLaren present their new F1 car!
Check out McLaren's new F1 challenger, the MCL36, which was presented to the world during a special launch ceremony.