F1 Testing: McLaren the Big Unknown Heading into Melbourne

2nd Pre-Season Test, Day 1

An interrupted day to kick off the second week of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

The team suffered some niggling issues that meant running was relatively stop-start throughout the day. After an initial install lap as the track went green at 09:00am, Stoffel reported a loss of electrical power to the car and coasted back into the pits.

The same issue affected his next run, when after another three laps all electrical power to the car shut down, and Stoffel stopped out on track. The team investigated the issue and elected to swap the battery, after which Stoffel returned to the track just before lunch.

Despite a productive early-afternoon stint out on track, Stoffel’s run was cut short with a suspected hydraulic leak just before 16:00hrs. Due to the location of the leak, the investigation and fix were naturally time-consuming, and meant the day’s running concluded early.

Nevertheless, Stoffel completed 38 laps and still managed to gather a lot of useful data in preparation for tomorrow’s running.

Stoffel Vandoorne:

“Today was challenging because of the issues we had which interrupted our running for today. We had a few stoppages on track, and we’ve been working through each one to make sure we’re fully prepared for tomorrow.

“The kinds of issue we’ve had weren’t particularly serious, but have taken a relatively long time to fix, so we weren’t able to run as much as we planned. The conditions this afternoon were quite tricky due to the wind, so the running we did wasn’t so representative.

“We’re hopeful the issues have been fixed and we can have a more productive day tomorrow.”

2nd Pre-Season Test, Day 2

Despite a positive start to the day and some productive initial running, Fernando’s programme was brought to a halt on track just after 11:00hrs, when the team detected an oil leak.

Given the location of the leak and the time-consuming process required to identify and fix it in-situ, the team opted to swap the power unit so that the problem could be repaired outside the car.

Fernando returned to the track just after 17:00hrs for a further 10 laps before the chequered flag, as well as practice launches and start procedures.

Fernando completed 57 laps in total and set the sixth-fastest time of the day.

Fernando Alonso:

“Of course, the programme we had planned today was longer than 50-something laps, but Stoffel and I faced a couple of issues over the last couple of days and this is part of testing – hopefully now these things won’t happen on lap 10 in Melbourne.

“In a way, it’s useful learning and I’m happy that we’re continuing to make the car stronger and stronger. We managed to complete all the important parts of the programme this morning, so the rest of the day was more about long runs and putting in extra mileage, without needing any specific information to send back to the factory.

“I’m not worried about the track time we lost today. I have one more day in the car before Australia, and I hope we’ll be able to do some long runs and check extra things in order to keep discovering more about our new package, but the fundamental questions we needed to answer in winter testing have been answered, so for me the final day is not crucial. If we went to Australia tomorrow, I’d feel okay.”

2nd Pre-Season Test, Day 3

A productive and valuable day of running for the whole McLaren team on the penultimate day of the final pre-season test.

In the morning session, Stoffel completed 48 laps, focusing on set-up work, aero development and setting changes to arm the team with as much information as possible about the behaviour of the new MCL33 package.

After lunch, and a few more development runs, the team performed a full race simulation – made even more realistic by a brief interruption from a red flag – and concluded the day having run a full and comprehensive test programme.

Stoffel completed 151 laps and set the sixth-fastest time of the day.

Stoffel Vandoorne:

“Today was a very positive day for us and we completed a lot of laps. This morning was good – we went through a lot of set-up work, understanding about the tyre compounds, and did a lot of learning that we’d missed at the start of this week and also last week because of the bad weather conditions.

“This afternoon we completed a full race distance, which went smoothly and was good to get under our belt, to get a feel for the car in race conditions, and go through the different tyre variations. The feeling in the car from the beginning has been very positive, and today’s running has confirmed that feeling.

“Obviously, there are a few areas we know we need to work on, and our car in Melbourne will be quite different as there are a lot of updates coming. It’s important now that everything we’ve learned here we carry forward.

“Today was very productive and it gives us the confidence to go to Melbourne with a strong package. It was also my last day in the car and now I’m looking forward to going racing. I feel 100 per cent ready.”

2nd Pre-Season Test, Final Day

After a tough start to the day, the entire McLaren team pulled together to concentrate some solid running into the afternoon session, to round off the final pre-season test before the season proper starts in Melbourne.

Although Fernando took to the track shortly after 09:00hrs to commence his run programme, his progress was cut prematurely short by a problem with the turbo, prompting an engine change which kept him in the garage until the after the track closed for lunch break.

The team worked hard to prepare the car for the afternoon session, and Fernando returned to the track just after it reopened at 14:00hrs. Fernando condensed a huge proportion of today’s run plan into only a few hours of track time, completing significant mileage and ticking off more valuable elements on the test programme.

The day – and the pre-season tests – ended ultimately positively, despite the challenges the last couple of weeks had delivered. Fernando completed 93 laps, posting the second-quickest time of the day.

Fernando Alonso:

“Today was a bit of a rollercoaster! This morning we had an engine issue which meant we couldn’t complete any of the morning programme, but the guys did a fantastic job once again to change everything on the car and get us ready as soon as possible.

“We had a very good afternoon, and compressed our full day’s schedule into the afternoon session. We managed to do everything we wanted and I’m quite happy with the result and the final day of testing.

“I think there’s more to come from the car in terms of performance and also of course with reliability, but now we have two important weeks back in the factory to prepare for the first race. We will see exactly where we are in Australia, when everyone is running with maximum performance, but I think it was a very productive two weeks of winter testing for us. We had a lot of new things to prove and test and now we have a couple of weeks to put everything in place.

“I’d like to say well done to the whole team for pushing hard, and now we’re all looking forward to going racing in Melbourne.”