McLaren team boss Zak Brown admits he “could see us sliding to sixth” in this year’s Formula 1 World Championship, so tight is the midfield battle likely to prove.
Although a repeat of last season’s fourth position in the Constructors’ standings is the primary aim for McLaren, they face a renewed challenge from all of their rivals who are also aiming to close the gap to Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
The first signs of the pecking order will be revealed at the opening Austrian Grand Prix on July 5 when the improvements some teams signalled during pre-season testing could start coming to fruition.
Speaking on the Sky F1 Vodcast, Brown said: “I do think this year is going to be tougher.
“Racing Point are clearly very quick with what appears to be last year’s Mercedes – and one would think it would be quick because it won the championship last year! They’re going to be very tough and I think they made the most off-season progress.
“Renault were very quick, Alfa [Romeo] were quick, AlphaTauri put in a very quick time at the end of testing and Williams showed a lot more pace than last year.
“So I do think this year is going to be tougher than last year and I could see us being fourth and I could see us sliding to sixth because others have challenged.
“I think it’s going to come down to reliability, drivers continuing to do a good job and the team executing because I think there’s not much pace difference between the cars.
“Hopefully our car is strong. We were happy with winter testing but that midfield is going to be tighter than ever.”
McLaren have retained last year’s driver line-up for 2020 with Lando Norris partnering Carlos Sainz before the Spaniard replaces Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari next season.