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Why McLaren may have an early advantage over rivals including Ferrari

Whilst the topic of 'porpoising' was raised by many teams and drivers after pre-season testing in Barcelona, this was not so much the case for McLaren. James Key, the outfit's Executive Technical Director, has given an insight into why this is.

Norris Barcelona
To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts

McLaren's James Key has explained why the team's lack of struggling with 'porpoising' in testing - in comparison to some of their rivals - could potentially be an early advantage.

The term became a hot topic during the pre-season test in Barcelona. It refers to the side effect of the cars being designed to a ground effect philosophy, in that this causes resonance through the chassis which then results in the cars appearing to bounce down the straights.

Several drivers have raised concerns about how this could impact reliability, whilst Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto admits that many in F1 may have "underestimated" the problem.

Whilst McLaren have experienced some 'porpoising', Key - Executive Technical Director at McLaren - says that it has not posed a "major concern or a major distraction" for drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo so far.

Why have some F1 teams been affected more than others?

When asked why the issue seems to have impacted certain teams more than others, Key explained that there are potentially "several factors" involved, and that he expects solutions for the problem to become clear in time.

"Certainly, what we found is that you can have a combination of things which kind of promote it, and then you can back out of that," Key told media including RacingNews365.com.

"As you'd expect, more often than not, promoting it is kind of theoretically the right way to go with a set-up or an aero development, and then you find that it's kicking it off a bit more.

"So I think there's something to learn. I'm sure it's something everyone will get on top of. It's kind of a topic because it's very visible but, ultimately, there will be solutions there between the set-up and aero development, where you discover how to manage it.

"So I wouldn't have thought that it will be much of a talking point after the first five or six races."

Could McLaren have an edge?

McLaren were engaged in a close battle with Ferrari for P3 in the 2021 Constructors' Championship, and both teams have impressed with their performances during 2022 pre-season testing. The Scuderia are amongst those to have been seen to struggle with 'porpoising', though.

In terms of whether this could give McLaren a slight edge - given that the issue has not affected them as much - Key admits that there could be some advantages in that it allows more flexibility.

"I suppose it helps if you're not suffering from it dramatically in that you can perhaps have a bit more flexibility," he said.

"There's been a few videos around of cars really going off. I think the Ferrari was one [on day two], for example, whilst on day one it appeared to be the most stable car.

"So I guess everyone is finding the right place to be at the moment. Whether it's an advantage or not, I guess it will play out as to how far you can push your set-up or your aero development."

Why aren't McLaren suffering as much?

On why McLaren have so far not experienced as much 'porpoising' as others, Key explained: "I don't think it's entirely luck.

"I think the stability of the car does play its role a little bit in this, [in terms of] how well the car hangs onto load in various roll-out conditions and so on.

"But I'd be lying if I said it was by design. I think it's a phenomena we've all got to get used to from track running, the reality of these cars. Hopefully [it will] iron out as time goes on, [and we will] learn how to remove it as an issue."

The next pre-season test will take place in Bahrain on 10-12 March.

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