McLaren are on the brink of completing development on a new wind tunnel and simulator that could help them find their way back to the front of the grid.
The British side have been working on some of the oldest simulator technology in Formula 1 for the last few years and, though the software has been updated since its introduction 20 years ago, it is still nowhere near as advanced or practical as those used by the likes of Red Bull and Mercedes.
As for their wind tunnel, they have been using one owned by Toyota, and that has caused some logistical issues for the Woking-based side.
Mercedes and Red Bull both have wind tunnels in the UK, and Aston Martin use one that was previously owned by the German side – they are all based in Britain.
Ferrari own one in Maranello, and they also have a test track they can use in Fiorano, but this is generally used for older models as there is limited testing time on current cars.
Alfa Romeo still use Sauber’s facilities in Switzerland to test the aerodynamic efficiency of the car, but the situation is a little different for McLaren.
They have to travel out to Germany to gather aerodynamic data from the car which is, not only a lot of effort, but also extremely expensive, particularly when weighed up against the $145 million budget.
It is impractical for McLaren to have to leave the country to test the car and then review the data when they get back home, as there are no re-runs if they return to the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) and find that there is data they have not collected from the car.
The outdated facilities make up part of the reason that the eight-time champions went nearly nine years without a race win, and they have not claimed a title since Sir Lewis Hamilton’s success in 2008.
Work on the new simulator started at the end of the 2019 season, but it is still not ready yet, while a new wind tunnel is also in the works.
The Woking team are set to spend $300 million on the upgrades, but technical director James Key is confident that it will be worth the money.
“In terms of the facilities … it’ll make quite a big difference to us because we’re working in probably the oldest simulator in the pitlane,” he told the Race.
“It’s the original, albeit updated, and it’s fantastic considering how well it’s served the team for 20 years or whatever it is, but it’s definitely generation zero.
“So when both of those come online, and they’re almost at a testing phase now so we’re really beginning to see these projects coming together, the wind tunnel will allow us to do things we can’t do at all at the moment and that will give us a huge amount more information.”
Lando Norris managed McLaren’s best result of the season by finishing third in Imola, but it has otherwise been an underwhelming season for the team, who are fifth in the Constructors’ Standings, four points behind fourth-placed Alpine.