While their rival from last season, Ferrari , has returned to fighting for victories, McLaren have taken a step back in the current course of 2022, and are fifth in the constructors’ championship until the summer break, behind Alpine .
The Enstone team, with which the Woking team is in conflict over a legal dispute over the services of Oscar Piastri , has kept Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo at bay in the first 13 grand prix.
Despite McLaren struggling to keep up with the French, the team’s number one young Brit has qualified quite well in recent rounds of the Formula 1 calendar.
Norris was fourth in Hungary, three tenths ahead of the two Alpine cars, after a fifth place finish in France and a sixth place on the grid in Great Britain, beating one of the Mercedes cars both times.
Asked why McLaren had performed so well in qualifying and lost pace in the race, team principal Andreas Seidl explained that Saturdays can mask some of the MCL36’s shortcomings, as they manage to extract the most from Pirelli tires in one lap.
“I think in general if we compare our speed in qualifying to the race, on Saturdays we see how far our car is from the top three,” he said. “I would say it’s downforce, where you can disguise something with the grip that the tires have over one lap in qualifying.
“But then throughout the race, the lack of performance or downforce wears the tires down, and I guess that’s why you see a bigger difference,” said the German.
McLaren is behind Alpine, although only four points separate the two teams, but it is Norris’ 76 points that keep the orange team in the fight, as well as making the young Englishman seventh, as ‘best of the rest’ in the drivers’ championship.
Seidl said McLaren’s recent improvements have helped keep it in contention for fourth place in the constructors’ standings, although he acknowledged the top three teams are still a long way off, even if they can occasionally beat a Mercedes in qualifying.
“In terms of race pace, compared to the Alpines for example, we were in a good position [in Hungary]. It was a better place than the previous weekend [in France],” he added. “I think, thanks to the update we brought to Paul Ricard, which we further optimized for Hungary, I think we’ve made a good step forward.”
“Now we have to move on, and continue to improve the car, because when you look at the lap time difference, which is still there in qualifying as well, it’s clear that [the top teams] just have a much stronger car.” Seidl.
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