McLaren has confirmed that it is planning to develop the Honda-powered MP4-30 car right up to the final race of the 2015 Formula 1 season as it continues to fight back from a difficult start to the year.
Since ending its engine supply deal with Mercedes at the end of 2014 and switching to Honda power units, the team has struggled with a number of technical issues on its car.
Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso may have three world titles and almost 50 grand prix wins between them, but neither driver could prevent McLaren from suffering its worst ever start to an F1 season.
However, the time difference to the front of the field has rapidly decreased in the first four races, and chief engineer Peter Prodromou believes that McLaren needed to take a step back before it could move forwards.
“Over the last couple of seasons, the team slightly lost its way aerodynamically,” Prodromou said. “It became obvious that if we’d carried on with the previous concept, there’d only be so much we could achieve.
“So we’ve begun to establish a new aerodynamic concept, and a different way of working, too. That new concept has majorly shaped where the team’s heading in the future.
“Next year’s car will be an evolution of this year’s, so we need to keep developing it right until the final race.”
Director of engineering Matt Morris said that the MP4-31 in 2016 would be an evolution of this year’s car, warranting the longer development curve for the 2015 model.
“The 2016 regulations aren’t significantly changing and we’re not going through the process of introducing a new engine, as we’ve done for the last two years,” Morris said.
“So we’ll keep developing. A lot of what we learn at the track this year will naturally evolve into next year’s car.”
Racing director Eric Boullier has no concerns about the driver line-up, though, and thinks that the experience both Alonso and Button provide is doing wonders for the McLaren-Honda project.
“The driver line-up has made a big difference,” Boullier said. “Jenson’s attitude and feedback have always been phenomenal, but this year he’s raised his game again.
“Our drivers are really committed. They’re world champions, they want to win again, they believe in the project, and they’re pushing hard. They don’t leave anything on the table in terms of performance, which is fantastic.”