“They may be down on power, but at least McLaren deliver a solid chassis” is what McLaren fans have been reassuring themselves with for the past few seasons. But ex-McLaren driver Pedro De La Rosa watched the McLaren going through the corners of Barcelona, and has witnessed a non-Honda related issue.
The Formula One veteran was trackside during the Barcelona tests, observing car behaviour and looking out for strengths and weaknesses when he noticed something bad about the McLaren MCL32. He said,
“The McLaren is more nervous than I expected. I see a Fernando (Alonso) who has to work on the steering wheel more than is ideal. The car is unstable in turns 1 and 5 and tends to lock wheels.
No one is attacking like Fernando. I really did not expect the McLaren to be as restless on these wide tyres.”
– Pedro De La Rosa
The last thing anyone really anticipated this season was for McLaren to take another step backwards. It’s not a concrete assumption given the pre-season testing only goes so far as to looking for a running order, but these early indications are really bad for McLaren.
The Honda problem doesn’t look like it’s going to go away anytime soon, with Honda’s boss recently admitting that he is shocked by the early issues. But for a hugely experienced driver like De La Rosa to make this observation on the chassis of the MCL32 adds a greater sense of despair to those hoping McLaren might climb the order in 2017.
As Stoffel Vandoorne pointed out after the final day of the first week of testing, it is early days and the team is working very hard to regain lost ground.
“We had a difficult start to the week, but I want to say thank you to the team for all their hard work over the past four days. We’ve managed a solid couple of days’ running and made good progress, and I’m really proud of the team effort to ensure we could make the most of our track time. I hope we can continue this momentum and have a strong week at the next test.”
– Stoffel Vandoorne
As a team that once challenged for titles and won races regularly, 2017 feels like a make or break year for the McLaren-Honda partnership. McLaren fans will be hoping that the new orange livery symbolises a phoenix rising from the ashes.