Why the impact of McLaren’s early brake issues will still be felt in 2023

Sam Cooper
McLaren mechanics wheel the MCL36 back to the garage. Bahrain March 2022.

McLaren mechanics wheel the MCL36 back to the garage after it stopped at the end of the pit lane. Bahrain March 2022.

McLaren say a brake issue that first appeared in 2022 pre-season testing has had a knock-on effect for their plans heading into 2023.

The pre-season runout was not ideal for McLaren with just Lando Norris running as his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo tested positive for COVID.

Norris only managed 200 laps across three days as a brake issue appeared on the car and would hamper their performance in the season proper.

The Woking-based team eventually solved the issue but such was the delay to find a solution, departing team boss Andreas Seidl revealed it has had ramifications for the 2023 car.

“It had quite a consequence for us as a team for different reasons,” Seidl told Speedcafe.com prior to his departure.

“Obviously, with testing being so limited nowadays, and going into a completely new era of Formula 1, completely new cars, then missing out on half of the testing compared to everyone else around, compared to all other competitors, definitely put us on the back foot quite a lot in terms of preparation for the season.

“Then we had to use a lot of resources as well at a time where we would have liked to use all the resources simply to performance develop the car instead of fixing brake issues was also something that, I think, put us on the back foot even further and, to a certain degree, probably even had an impact on next year’s car because we couldn’t start it as early as we would have liked.”

With the new regulations for 2022, plenty of teams who started on the backfoot have found themselves playing catch-up in a desperate attempt to be on a level playing field once again come 2023.

Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff has said similar after the W13 was found to be one of the most underperforming cars on the entire grid. The Austrian remarked that the team “started a 100-metre race 10 metres behind everyone else.”

2023 shaping up to be make or break for McLaren

New driver, new team principal, new wind tunnel, 2023 is already looking like a monumental year of change for McLaren. While the effects of the wind tunnel will not be felt until the 2024 car, it is a sign of McLaren’s desire to move forward but 2022 was a step in the wrong direction.

Having finished third in 2020 and then fourth in 2021, the team slumped to fifth after a year of troubles from both the car and personnel.

Ricciardo is out, replaced by his compatriot Oscar Piastri, while Seidl has left for pastures new at the soon-to-be Audi works team.

The term ‘transition season’ can often be used when a team going through lots of changes underperforms but the reality is, McLaren cannot really afford that in 2023 especially when it comes to the future of Norris.

The Brit is tied to McLaren until the end of 2025 but as he sees his colleagues such as Max Verstappen and George Russell, who are two years and one year older than Norris respectively, fight for wins at the top of the grid, he may start to wonder when his time will come.

On paper, 2023 looks like a risk for McLaren with the unknowns of a new team principal and a new driver to deal with but the team must ensure they snatch P4 back from Alpine if they want to prove 2022 was a blip and not the start of a decline.

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