F1 2022, McLaren, Canadian Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, Alpine, Alfa Romeo, Fernando Alonso, championship

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For the third time this season, McLaren failed to score points this weekend.

The team’s performance at the Canadian Grand Prix was a bit of a disaster, with neither car matching the race pace of their regular midfield rivals – Fernando Alonso, after all, put his Alpine in first place. – and it was marked by an embarrassing series of blunders. who ruled him out of the points.

Ricciardo suffered a slow stop, which in turn held up Norris, who was double-stacked behind him, only for the Briton to discover his team had prepared the wrong tyres, costing him even more time.

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“It was a difficult weekend in general, with a car that lacked pace, had reliability issues and suffered an operational problem during the pit stop at double speed during the car period of virtual safety,” said team manager Andreas Seidl.

“We have to recognize that our competitors did a better job and therefore we don’t deserve any points today.”

It was undoubtedly a weekend off – especially as McLaren have been one of the toughest teams in the pit lane for the past 18 months – but the shock from the bottom obscures the fact that McLaren has come completely out of the boil in recent races.

He is now regularly outclassed by Alpine and Alfa Romeo, and his place in charge of midfield – the minimum expectation for one of the sport’s great teams – is in serious jeopardy.

HOW BAD IS IT?

The Montreal team’s non-score has left them extremely vulnerable in fourth on the titles table, which they hold just eight points clear of Alpine – that would have been six had Alonso not been penalized for its late race weave – and 14 points ahead of Alfa Romeo.

McLaren’s trajectory this season paints an even worse picture. The team has been outclassed by at least one of these two teams in four of the last five races and in all but three grands prix of the season: Australia, Emilia-Romagna and Monaco.

But in Melbourne Fernando Alonso lost a front-row shot and good points to a hydraulic problem in Q3 and couldn’t score on Sunday, and in Emilia-Romagna he was taken out of contention by Mick Schumacher. In Monaco, Valtteri Bottas lost crucial track time in practice due to engine problems that left him out of grid position and ninth to the flag.

What’s more, McLaren’s points in those three races were inflated by the extra points offered in the sprint at Imola, and without taking anything away from Norris’ excellent driving this weekend, he inherited the double misfortune podium from Ferrari this afternoon.

This weekend’s results are what keep McLaren fourth and not waver on the edge of sixth.

Since this weekend, the team has scored 3.8 points per round against Alpine’s seven, and on this trend, the French brand will take fourth place before the mid-season break.

Alfa Romeo scores 3.8 points per race, but it’s worth noting that they are almost all from Valtteri Bottas, who is only four points behind Norris despite the Briton’s podium. Rookie Zhou Guanyu’s improving form will no doubt play a part by the end of the season.

NOT ENOUGH RISK

Part of McLaren’s problem is that Alpine has more control over its overall package as an engine manufacturer, and its ability to take more risks with its 2022 car is clearly paying off.

Before the engine freeze came into effect this season, the whole thing was put on an all-new powertrain design. Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi has shaken up the engine design department in France to encourage the team to prioritize power over reliability.

Reliability, after all, can be fixed later, with the FIA ​​able to grant engine freeze exemptions if teams can prove the modifications are not designed to improve performance.

Verstappen sails to Canadian GP victory | 02:13

“Push the envelope far and I don’t care,” he explained, per Sports car. “I would rather cut performance, but know that I have reached the peak of performance that I can get rather than being reliable and feeling comfortable with a reliable engine that does not deliver performance.

The team also made regular substantial updates to their car. He has heavily overhauled his pontoons in Azerbaijan and is expected to bring another major package to the next race in the UK.

Reliability suffered – Alonso withdrew points in Saudi Arabia and was out of power in Canada – but the team were also able to pursue morale-boosting and headline-grabbing results at other occasions, such as through Alonso’s outstanding one-lap performance. .

Alfa Romeo has also benefited from Ferrari’s aggressively redeveloped engine – more on that below – and has clearly made good use of its underrated Swiss facilities to deliver a solid all-rounder, especially in the hands of Valtteri Bottas.

McLaren has made progress this year in terms of erasing some historic car traits that have held it back in recent years, but that has come at the expense of a lower performance ceiling and floor. Alpine, on the other hand, has significantly better good days and better bad ones. Even Alfa Romeo’s goalless weekends only came when at least one car gave up.

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

FERRARI SHOWS WHAT IS POSSIBLE

But talking about McLaren’s prospects of losing fourth place misses the big picture: it has failed to join the favorites under the new rules.

Yes, the team minimized expectations even before hitting the track, but managing expectations is standard practice. Even Ferrari says it is not targeting the world championship this season despite leading both title standings for most of the year.

And Ferrari is the relevant example, because remember McLaren spent last season locked in a battle with Scuderia, who had just had their worst season in 40 years in 2020.

Woking finished last season 48.5 points behind Maranello. After nine rounds this season, there are still 163 points behind, not to mention the gap to Red Bull Racing in the lead.

Year-on-year comparisons paint an even bleaker picture. After nine races last year, he was third in the standings with 141 points. This year, he is fourth with only 65 points, a reduction of 53.5%.

Yes, Ferrari has a resource advantage in terms of facilities, with an eight-year-old wind tunnel and a brand new simulator, while McLaren uses Toyota’s aging Cologne wind tunnel and a 20-plus-year-old simulator, with upgrades both not due until the end of this year.

Ferrari also averaged around 5% more wind tunnel last season under the sport’s handicap development system.

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But the budget cap should have ironed out the sharper aspects of those benefits. At least two teams starting in roughly the same place in terms of performance last season shouldn’t have diverged so dramatically this year.

Again, the risk-reward ratio is in play, because while McLaren loses to Alpine due to the French team’s risk-taking, Ferrari uses the same strategy exponentially more effectively.

“Let’s say that, compared to previous years, this has stimulated, if not forced, us to opt for even bolder design solutions in view of the significant delays, in particular the coming frost”, said the head of the unit. powerhouse of Ferrari, Enrico Gualtieri, before the season. “We had to push all of our programs to the absolute limit.

“We certainly had to take all the necessary risks.”

Ferrari has also come up with the most creative aero design under the new rules, arguably second only to Mercedes, as highlighted by its large concave sidepods. It’s a close game for Red Bull Racing, but it has arguably been the fastest package in the majority of races this season.

McLaren may not have expected to be able to follow Ferrari to the top of the field, but they shouldn’t be so far behind.

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PERSPECTIVES

Luckily for McLaren, the next installment of races will likely be fertile ground to bolster their points. The car is at its best in the medium and high speed corners, which in a nutshell describes Silverstone, the Red Bull Ring and Circuit Paul Ricard, the next three races. Granted, all cars under this new aerodynamic philosophy prefer this type of setup, but the inherently strong dynamics of the MCL36 mean it has no trouble accessing its full potential here.

But then comes the Hungaroring, which is slower and more tortuous and likely to cause difficulties. And Zandvoort and Monza wait after the break to punish the car for its weaknesses, long slow corners and drag on the straights.

And talking about McLaren’s strengths in this midfield battle ignores the fact that Alpine and Alfa Romeo have underperformed for a variety of reasons so far this season, with reliability distorting both the form guide and the tally. points. Also, Alpine has improved over the last few races, and if Zhou starts scoring more often as he works his way through his rookie season, Alfa Romeo’s challenge will completely change in potency.

Fourth would already represent a step back for a McLaren with its goals set this season. After nine rounds, the odds seem against him, even managing that.

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