McLaren engineering director: Driveability critical in team’s late 2014 performance


While McLaren finished fifth in the 2014 constructors’ championship, the team noticeably started to pick things up toward the tail end of the season. Jenson Button in particular came on strong with four Top-5 finishes in the final five Grands Prix.

Now comes 2015, which will see McLaren join forces with Honda on its new MP4-30 challenger for Button and new teammate Fernando Alonso.

The team’s engineering director, Matt Morris, says that what they learned in the waning stages of 2014 will be helpful as they seek to get back to regular appearances on the podium next season.

Morris notes that attaining driveability became more important to the team than sticking with data simulations as 2014 progressed.

“One of the main areas we focused on during the season was our mindset about how we actually perceive performance gains,” he says in a “tech review” on the McLaren web site. “What I mean by that is that, in the past, we’ve used some very mathematical models to tell us a new part is faster – and we’ve tended to believe that.

“Now, however, what we’ve been increasingly doing is looking at some of those aerodynamic concepts, and thinking beyond what the computer predicts as the lap time improvement. In other words, we’ve looked at them more in terms of overall driveability.

“The word ‘driveability’ has definitely moved up the ranks of our decision-making process as the season’s gone on.”

The Japanese Grand Prix was critical for McLaren in that regard. The team rolled out a new front-end aero package for that race, and immediately, both Button and 2014 teammate Kevin Magnussen reacted with approval.

“All of a sudden, the drivers were saying: ‘The car’s changed – it’s better,’ Morris recalls. “Increasingly, we’re finding that if the driver likes it, he can use his self-confidence in the balance and handling to make the car go faster. That mindset was definitely a catalyst for us pushing further in that direction.

“What we’ve done is increased our envelope of understanding around the car – it’s more holistic; we’re looking at the car in broader terms – and we’re making decisions on a more global scale. That’s one of the big things that we’ve changed in engineering.”

In Morris’ eyes, the late-season strides made by McLaren will serve as a good foundation for its work on the MP4-30 this off-season.

“In general, the last four or five races were very positive for us,” he said. “In those events, Jenson got absolutely everything out of the car, and kept his nose clean in the races. If you look at our competitiveness, taking Mercedes out of the equation, we were probably more competitive than Red Bull and Ferrari in the last four races.

“Going into the winter, it’s good to know that we have that baseline, as that is what the MP4-30 is based upon.”

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.