Looking back on those three nightmare seasons with Honda, McLaren could allow itself a smile of (almost) smug satisfaction last year, having secured the ‘coveted’ best of the rest title, in terms of constructors and drivers (Carlos Sainz).
Of course, the fact that previous partner Honda had scored three wins with Red Bull somewhat tempered the celebrations in Woking, but nonetheless it was a convincing comeback from the eight-time constructors’ champions.
Speaking last month however, Zak Brown warned fans not to expect another significant step forward this year.
“We need to keep going forward,” said the American. “We had a huge step, obviously, from 2018 to 2019, but part of that was we were so poor in 2018 that it was hard not to take a big step in 2019. So I don’t see that same step coming from 2019 to 2020.
“Really, what we need to do is just get tidier, more race fit, get a good head-start,” he continued, “the 2021 car’s already in the wind tunnel, we feel pretty good about the 2020 car.
“We just need to kind of keep our head down and know that it’s not going to happen overnight. We’re going to have some great weekends and we’re going to have some bad weekends. But let’s just hope that we keep moving forward.”
The message has been reiterated by team boss, Andreas Seidl, who, while admitting that attention will switch to next year’s car much earlier than normal, warns that because the true impact of the budget cap won’t kick-in for the first couple of seasons, he doesn’t expect his team to be challenging for podiums or wins until 2023.
Asked if the Woking team might be tempted to dismiss this season in order to concentrate on 2021, he is adamant: “We deliberately won’t do that,” he tells Auto Motor und Sport.
“We have to keep up the positive run we have made this year,” he continues “We also want to take a step forward in 2020, not in terms of position, I still expect a hard fight for 4th place again. That is the maximum that is currently possible in Formula 1 given the current strength and budget.
“We still see enough weak spots in the team that we have to work on,” he adds. “So we have to show that we are developing in these areas and that is exactly why it is important to have a good 2020 season.
“It is clear to me that a balancing act awaits us in the current year, from when we flick the switch fully to 2021. Logically, this will happen earlier than usual.
“The top teams still have more budget, more resources, more people. And they do a better job too. After the start of the new regulations, it will take time for the budget cap to take effect. I therefore expect to be on the podium and win in 2023.”