Carlos Sainz believes that in McLaren’s MCL34 the team has a car that can push them up the grid, they just need to avoid a repeat of last year’s development “trap”.
Although McLaren began last year’s championship with a run of five successive grands prix inside the points, the team began to lose ground as they introduced upgrades for the car.
The Woking team spent much of 2018 trying to improve the car only to get it wrong.
As such McLaren only bagged five top-ten results from Monaco onwards and slumped to sixth in the championship.
Asked if he felt McLaren’s 2019 car could avoid a repeat of last year’s slump, Sainz told Autosport: “It will all depend on upgrades.
“If our upgrades work, then I’m convinced this team is going to move forward.
“So we need those upgrades early and to start developing the car to not fall into the same trap as last season.
“We know the direction to follow, we know the car at the moment has the pace to be in the mix: some races in Q3, some races not.
“But we have a good development programme and if we make it happen, we will succeed in that battle.”
Sainz’s first race with McLaren didn’t go according to plan as he qualified down in 18th place.
He had, however, worked his way up to 14th before an MGU-K problem put him out of the Australian Grand Prix.
“It shows the car was able to get points at that track at least, so let’s see how it adapts to other tracks like Bahrain or China,” said Sainz.
“But the initial feeling was really good – attacking the Force India in front, being able to clear four cars in front, and I was riding in the mix.”