The Woking-based team has faced a few teething problems in pre-season testing, with its running slightly limited on Thursday after needing to reinforce parts to avoid failures.
Furthermore, drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have not looked especially comfortable out on track, with their lap times not at the head of the timesheets either.
McLaren’s difficulties are not a total surprise, though, with team principal Andrea Stella revealing at the MCL60 reveal that it was not entirely happy with the launch specification car.
However, there are hopes that development upgrades arriving around the time of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix will help address some of the deficit.
Speaking at the Bahrain test on Friday, CEO Zak Brown admitted that McLaren was behind where it wanted to be but said there was not yet a clear picture of just where it stacked up against the opposition.
“It’s hard to know until we get going,” he said when asked by Autosport how much on the back foot he anticipated the team could be.
“We know we set some goals for development, which we didn’t hit, and we felt it was better to be honest about that.
“Like everyone, we have a lot of development coming. So, we are encouraged by what we see around the corner.
“I think we will be going into the first race off of our projected targets, but it is hard to really know where that means we will be on the grid.”
Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
New McLaren driver Oscar Piastri suggested that his early impression of the MCL60 was that it was not a dramatic step forward on the 2022 MCL36 that he tried out in the post-season Abu Dhabi test.
“I would say a small step from last year,” he said. “We know we’ve got a few things in the pipeline for hopefully soon in season. But, so far, it’s I think similar to what I remember from my limited experience in a ground-effect car.”
McLaren is aware that its long-term ambitions of moving towards the front of the grid are dependent on getting state-of-the-art infrastructure in place. A new wind tunnel and simulator are due to come on tap later this year.
Brown said, however, that the squad needed to accelerate development hard if it was going to hit its targets.
“Our aspirations are to get back to the front,” he said. “We know that will take a little bit more time. All the technology infrastructure is either in or going to be pretty much completed this year. So that’s quite exciting.
“We have some good developments coming, but so does every other single team in F1. We need to pick up the pace.”