Tough questions must be asked if McLaren fail to make 'big step' in Spain - Pat Symonds

McLaren faces tough questions if it fails to make a big step forward at the Spanish Grand Prix in May, according to Formula 1’s Chief Technical Officer of Motorsports Pat Symonds.

The British outfit made bold claims during the 2017 season that its chassis was amongst the best on the grid, and that it was being held back by engine partner Honda.

However, McLaren has remained firmly mid-grid through the opening stages of 2018, significantly behind Formula 1's 'big three' teams, often trading blows with Renault, Haas and even Toro Rosso.

"To me, McLaren's performance is as unexpected as that of Haas, but unfortunately in the other direction," he said in Formula 1's pre-Azerbaijan GP guide.

"I think last year we believed the McLaren chassis and aerodynamics were very good but that they were being held back by the Honda power unit. However, I think we're seeing now that they are the third most competitive Renault team and that's surprising.

"Their straight-line speed is low and therefore they've probably taken a higher drag solution."

McLaren is poised to introduce a substantial upgrade package for the Spanish Grand Prix, with its MCL33 initially compromised by its late decision to switch from Honda to Renault, as the operation prioritised engine integration.

If McLaren fails to make a step forward in Barcelona, Symonds says the team has to question how it got into such a scenario.

"They've said that with a late decision on the engine change they haven't managed to produce the car they wanted to produce," said Symonds. "They are now saying that in Barcelona they'll make a big step forward.

"Therefore, I think that it's very binary with McLaren – if they make that big step forward in Barcelona then great, we've got another team in the mix. If they don't, then I think they need to question where they are – and how they got there."

McLaren has not won a Formula 1 race since 2012, the 101-race spell the longest drought in its history.