Formula 1: Can McLaren Pull Away from Midfield?

McLaren Renault is experiencing a momentous 2019 season. Top results have become the norm and reliability no longer looks to be an issue in recent weeks. The pairing of Carlos Sainz and rookie Lando Norris, both of whom are not only talented drivers but also relatively soft spoken, which is something McLaren desperately needed after Fernando Alonso’s departure, have created a more positive and arguably focused environment within the team.

Heading into the German Grand Prix, McLaren finds itself twenty-one points clear of engine provider, Renault, for fourth place in the Constructor Standings. McLaren has amassed a total of thirty points in the previous three races dating back to the French Grand Prix. Thirty points is the exact amount the Constructor scored in the first seven races combined. Austria was an especially noteworthy race as Norris finished sixth with Carlos finishing in eighth.

Hockenheimring, which may host its last Formula 1 race, has traditionally been famed for its overtaking opportunities, which could provide true showcase for McLaren’s progress this season. There are numerous slow corners including turns 2 and 3 that lead up to the longest straight on the circuit and the turn six hairpin, which succeeds the straight and can provide the necessary momentum leading into the tricky second portion of the circuit.

McLaren’s increased pace might prove important on the long straight which includes a slight left bend making up turn five. In the same vain, Hockenheim is traditionally considered to be a rear-limited track. A rear-limited track implies that there is more stress put on the rear tires causing less grip at the back of the car. Carlos Sainz was quoted following the Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this year explaining his thoughts on the cars strength,

“The car feels a bit front-limited at the moment and Bahrain is a rear-limited track so it was playing to our strengths.”

While there has certainly been some developments in the McLaren car since Bahrain, the overall handling is unlikely to change drastically. Thus it would be reasonable to expect Hockenheim to play to McLaren’s strengths.

Lando Norris expressed his excitement leading into the German Grand Prix,

“…I’ve raced at Hockenheim a few times before in junior formulae, but I’m excited to race there in an F1 car for the first time.”

Norris went on to say,

“It’s a cool track and I’ve had some good experiences there in the past. We are working on improving the car at every weekend and every session is crucial to that development, so I’ll be looking to hit the ground running from FP1 onwards.”

The race among the midfield contenders continues to be an up and down affair. Haas F1 has certainly underachieved this season and Racing Point has fallen off from a respectable start this year. Renault has failed to showcase consistency and stake a claim atop the midfield. Instead, Alfa Romeo has looked to build off a strong 2018 season. McLaren, however, has far and away been the biggest surprise in and around the paddock. The team is starting to show the pace and get the results it believed was capable for a few years now.

The restructuring of the McLaren organization which includes Andreas Seidl becoming Team Principal and James Key tacking on Technical director has worked like a charm. The driver combination of both Sainz and Norris has gotten the best out of the 2019 McLaren MCL34, and McLaren has publicly thanked them by backing the drivers for the 2020 season. McLaren must continue to remain focused and motivated as the season comes to a close. Renault will surely find the current state of affairs unacceptable and will be hard at work to get back on track.

The German Grand Prix kicks off a back to back series of races before the teams go on summer break for the majority of August. It would be a strong statement of progress for McLaren should it extend its lead over Renault heading into the break. The Hockenheimring will undoubtedly be demanding but exciting track for the drivers, and with rain looking to be in the forecast come Sunday it may be the perfect occasion for some surprise performances.

Photo Credit-Unsplash: Puk Patrick

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