McLaren is heading into next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix as the biggest concern in the F1 paddock after a miserable final day ended their pre-season testing disaster.
According to a report, star driver Lando Norris was seen punching a wall in frustration after finishing the final day of testing as the 11th fastest driver on a day where just 17 cars were on track. Aussie Oscar Piastri was 16th and also suffered a scary moment as he spun out of control and performed a 360 spin.
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Sergio Perez topped the timesheets for Red Bull from Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes on the final day, but McLaren’s slow start to the year is quickly becoming the biggest story in Formula 1.
The frustration was too much for Norris, journalist Will Buxton said.
“I actually saw him leave the garage and walk to the little driver’s room on the side and, very unlike Lando, he actually punched the flimsy, makeshift wall as he walked through,” Buxton said.
“That little bit of frustration. You can tell it’s not quite right.”
There were more issues for McLaren later in testing as Piastri had to pull into the garage after 25 laps as the team worked on fixing what they described as a “minor issue” with the front winglets.
“The team are currently conducting some temporary strengthening work on the front winglets to ensure we can complete today’s running,” McLaren told Sky Sports in a statement.
“It’s a very minor issue that will be permanently fixed for the Grand Prix next weekend.”
The testing event finished with McLaren completing the fewest number of laps — 312. AlphaTauri topped the list with 456 completed laps.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown has been open about the team’s struggles.
“We already set some goals for development, which we didn’t hit,” he said, according to ESPN.
“We had some teething problems yesterday, we had Oscar doing most of the heavy lifting in the morning getting the car dialled in. Nothing alarming, just usual testing bugs if you like. Today Lando was focused on longer runs so we’re still understanding the car and have a lot of testing ahead of us, relatively speaking. Then we’ll get focused on race set up.”
It is very different in the Red Bull garage.
Perez has emerged as a crucial cog in teammate Max Verstappen’s world championship success over the past two seasons.
And after three days trying out their 2023 cars in the desert all the signs are that Red Bull will be hard to deny next Sunday in the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first of a record 23-race season.
“Red Bull seem to be very strong in these three days,” said Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc after Verstappen had been quickest on the first day of testing on Thursday.
“I feel we have some work to do,” added Leclerc, who will be hoping new Ferrari chief Frederic Vasseur can bring a change of fortune for the Scuderia on raceday after Ferrari’s title challenge last term was undone by a mix of poor strategy and reliability.
“The car is working really well,” said Verstappen, who is targeting a third straight title after defending his controversially gained 2021 crown four races from the end of last season with a record 15 wins.
Testing concluded with Perez 0.359seconds up on Hamilton as Verstappen sat out the final day.
There was an upbeat mood in the Mercedes garage with the new car performing well and showing no signs of the bouncing that dogged last year’s W13.
“We’re not quite where we want to be but it’s a good platform to start from,” commented Hamilton.
Teammate George Russell, who secured his first win in Brazil last year, said: “I believe we have improved the car over the course of testing and got the W14 in a much better window today. There is still plenty of work to do but we’re in better shape for next week with more to come.”
Valtteri Bottas’s Alfa Romeo occupied third from Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari, with Japan’s Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) sixth.
Further down the times in an Aston Martin came Felipe Drugovich, who stood in for Lance Stroll, missing after a cycling accident.
Drugovich, 22 and born in Brazil, won last season’s Formula 2 title and is on standby to substitute for Stroll should the Canadian son of team owner Lawrence Stroll be unfit for next weekend’s race.
— with AFP