McLaren ‘surprised’ at Red Bull and Ferrari’s in-season performance gains

Henry Valantine
Lando Norris, McLaren, followed by Charles Leclerc, Ferrari. Italy, April 2022.

McLaren technical director James Key has said certain teams have made it back to their performance levels from the 2021 generation of cars, expressing his surprise at just how much Red Bull and Ferrari have been able to progress during the season.

The top two in the Constructors’ Championship have built up a significant gap in performance to the rest of the field, with Mercedes the only team able to reel them in as the year has gone on.

The 2022 regulations were brought in with the aim of closing the field up and, with the introduction of a budget cap in Formula 1, put the teams on an equal financial footing.

Key also said the technical specification of the new cars had meant to have made the cars slower over the course of one lap, but believes some have been able to bridge the performance gap as 2022 has progressed.

With that, the McLaren technical director explained his shock that the top two teams have been able to move away from the rest, and how that acts as the bar for the team to aspire to be next year.

“What has surprised me is that, in theory, with the same chassis performance, the 2022 cars should be two seconds slower than the 2021 cars, but that hasn’t been the case,” Key said in a Q&A on McLaren’s official website.

“Cars are getting very close to ’21 performance levels now, and some have already achieved it, which reflects the quality of the teams we have in this sport.

“I suppose I am a little surprised at how two teams have been able to find that extra bit of performance compared to everyone else.

“It was a tighter field at the beginning of the season, but it’s beginning to stretch out now, and I have to say, Ferrari and Red Bull have done an excellent job of exploiting more.

“It shows that even within a cost cap, if you’re a big team with an extensive infrastructure and a lot of knowledge and methodology built over many years, it still very much counts.

“It’s a level playing field in terms of the budget we’ve got, but it’s not in terms of where we’re all coming from – that gives us an excellent reference point to aspire to.”

McLaren are currently engaged in a battle against Alpine to take the ‘best of the rest’ mantle in the Constructors’ Championship, with an 18-point deficit to make up to the French team in the race for fourth place in the team standings.

Red Bull currently hold a commanding 139-point lead over Ferrari at the top of the table, with Max Verstappen having won 11 of the 16 races so far this season.

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