McLaren’s technical director James Key says he is surprised by the large gap that exists between the Woking-based squad and the front-running Formula 1 teams in 2022.
The cars underwent significant changes in how they were constructed this year in a bid to improve on-track racing as well as tighten the competition.
F1 is also now into its second year of operating under a budget cap, aimed at decreasing the spending differentials between outfits to augment the competitiveness of the field.
However, Red Bull and Ferrari are the only two teams that have taken race victories so far in 2022, and have evidently possessed the fastest cars in the field this season.
Red Bull is on course to seal the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships, as it possesses a sizeable lead in both standings.
Key admits that he is surprised that Red Bull, as well as Ferrari, has been able to eke clear of the rest of the pack despite spending limitations, hailing their infrastructure and knowledge.
“I suppose I am a little surprised at how two teams have been able to find that extra bit of performance compared to everyone else,” he said.
“It was a tighter field at the beginning of the season, but it’s beginning to stretch out now, and I have to say, Ferrari and Red Bull have done an excellent job of exploiting more.
“It shows that even within a cost cap, if you’re a big team with an extensive infrastructure and a lot of knowledge and methodology built over many years, it still very much counts.
“It’s a level playing field in terms of the budget we’ve got, but it’s not in terms of where we’re all coming from – that gives us an excellent reference point to aspire to.”
Pre-season simulations suggested that the 2022 regulations were set to make the cars several seconds slower than their predecessors.
However, that hasn’t proven to be the case, with Key praising the engineering abilities of some teams that have improved their performance throughout the year.
“What has surprised me is that, in theory, with the same chassis performance, the 2022 cars should be two seconds slower than the 2021 cars, but that hasn’t been the case,” he said.
“Cars are getting very close to ’21 performance levels now, and some have already achieved it, which reflects the quality of the teams we have in this sport.”