LE CASTELLET, France — McLaren has confirmed it will invest in a new wind tunnel at its UK headquarters in a bid to return to the front of the Formula One pecking order.
McLaren has not won a race since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix and has been stranded in the midfield since the introduction of V6 turbo engines five years ago. That period included a disastrous spell with Honda power and a switch to Renault ahead of last season.
The team has clearly made progress so far this year, highlighted by Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz locking out the third row of the grid for this weekend’s French Grand Prix, the scene of one of its worst races of 2018.
The team has undergone a major overhaul of late with a revamp of its leadership structure — Andreas Seidl, who oversaw Porsche’s dominance of the World Endurance Championship at the start of the decade, is one of the recent additions, having been named F1 team principal by company CEO Zak Brown, a role he started officially in May.
Speaking to the F1 media after qualifying in France, Seidl confirmed the investment does not just stop at personnel. The team is also building a brand new wind tunnel — key for aerodynamic development — so it does not have to rely on Toyota’s facility in Cologne, Germany, as it has done in recent years.
“The 1.5 seconds we are missing to the top cars, or even more depending on the track, is simply aero load,” Seidl said. “This is what we are working on, day and night back home in the factory, trying also to set up the car in the right window to use the downforce we developed in the wind tunnel. I think that’s the main area we are working on.
“One of the biggest tasks I have at the moment from Zak and the shareholders — Sheikh Mohammed and Mansour [Ojjeh] is to point out the key deficits and weaknesses of the infrastructure, the structure at home, and the structure of working out here at the track.
“One of the big deficits we have clearly is not running our own wind tunnel at Woking, so for almost 10 years we’ve developed it remotely at Toyota Motorsport in Cologne. So we’re very happy that the decision has been made that we install a new wind tunnel in Woking.”
Seidl said the team hopes to have the new facility completed within two years. He believes it underlines the commitment the team has to returning to past glories.
“It is important to have this wind tunnel at home under your own control, because even when the restrictions that are coming [in 2021], the more restrictions you have the more important it is to use it in the most efficient way and the most accurate way.
“It’s obviously a great message for everyone inside the team because it also shows how serious Zak and the shareholders are regarding our way back to the front. So great news for everyone inside the team — a big boost for the morale, and it simply fits into the overall positive direction we are taking at the moment inside the team.”