McLaren chief explains what Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen can expect from new F1 rules

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McLaren Technical Director James Key believes there will be a “familiar pecking order” this season despite the new Formula One technical regulations. This year, F1 will introduce its new regulations, with teams exploring new aerodynamic concepts as well as cars yielding 18-inch tyres in 2022.

Mercedes and Red Bull were in a league of their own in the final season under the turbo-hybrid regulations as the championship went down to the last lap of the final race of the season, with Max Verstappen being crowned champion after a controversial end.

The two top teams were adamant they weren’t just focusing on 2021, and the construction of their 2022 machinery was an equal priority.

McLaren, who missed out on third in the constructors after their own midfield battle with Ferrari, come into the new season with high but realistic hopes.

“I think you’re gonna have probably a familiar pecking order; there’s probably going to be some surprises one way or the other, [but] not necessarily at the first race,” Key told

“The first race isn’t going to be representative. I think, as the season pans out, we’ll see that shifting around. But I think, when things settle down, it will be the team that’s smartest within the cost cap.

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“That’s maximising performance, which isn’t just down to design and development necessarily, it’s down to deploying it at the track, it’s down to how we operate at the circuit, how the production facilities work, how, internally, we make our priorities as a technical group against [the] financial side, and so on.

“So there’s going to be the financial game of extracting the most out of it, but all of that turns into activities which, ultimately, are racing. It’s really just getting that balance right and being smart about it.

“The low-hanging fruit is gonna dry up pretty quickly on these cars, so we’re gonna have to do something quite different here in year two or three of these regs, but how can we do that without spending a ton of money as we typically would?

“I think that’s probably where it’s gonna get to, but it’s nice to have the smartness of a team coming to the fore, more than just its financial clout, for me.”

Historically, teams with more money and better resources had a greater advantage over the rest of the grid, with some of the lower down teams expressing feelings they weren’t being fairly treated.

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Last year, F1 introduced a budget cap which helped limit spending to $145 million dollars, which is to be cut by $5 million dollars in 2022 which could lead to huge limitations for teams for aerodynamic testing and financial concerns.

McLaren, who have turned around their form since their split from Honda, are looking to bring the fight to Mercedes and Red Bull this season.

But Key admitted 2022 preparations have been a daunting process.

“It’s a shame that we live in a world where we’re trying to adapt to the cost cap era,” he said.

“We have [fewer] things like less wind tunnel and CFD time, for example, and that sort of thing. So that’s kicked in almost a year too early! And that was never the intention of the SATS [sliding scale aerodynamic tests].

“I think those added complications have made probably the biggest blank sheet of paper we’ve had with a Formula 1 car in my memory – which is like 25 seasons now.

“To come with additional constraints and restrictions, it’s always nice to have the full freedom to do these things. But that’s not right with the ethos of the cost cap, so the fact that everyone has got that challenge, I suppose, is a good thing.”

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