Andreas Seidl (46): That’s part of the game. The weekend in Bahrain was clearly a disappointment because we wanted to be immediately competitive with our car at the start of the new era. Now we have to analyze our weaknesses and think about how we can catch up as quickly as possible.
Is it a fundamental problem, so that you have to think about a completely new vehicle concept. Or rather the sum of smaller mistakes that can now be corrected one after the other?
There are several reasons. It was not good that we had problems at the last test of the season, for example with the brake temperature. This meant there was no preparation time. What we lacked on the first race weekend was grip. Partly from the mechanics, partly from the aerodynamics. It is now necessary to analyze this and take countermeasures. If there’s anything positive to say at the moment, then it’s that the new regulations certainly give a lot more room for improvement in terms of further development.
How long can it take to reconnect?
That is difficult to say. We want to take small steps every race weekend. It’s not that easy to find quick fixes, also because we’re on a tight schedule in terms of development. It will therefore take a few races.
How much are you personally challenged now? For example, to keep the team motivated after the first setback. And of course what concerns the drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo?
It’s a new situation. It went steadily up for three years, now there was the first setback. Now it is important to keep calm, to transfer this calm to the team, to stand behind the employees. What I exemplify: Transforming this disappointment into positive energy.
Have you ever experienced such a difficult situation in your motorsport career?
Naturally. It is part of the sport that there are ups and downs. We didn’t see the problems coming, but that’s why it’s important now to show fighting spirit and sportsmanship and to accept the situation.
When do you know if you need a completely new car?
That’s difficult to answer at the moment. But I don’t think we need that. I still believe in our basic package. Now it’s about getting the most out of this package, especially in terms of grip. We work at full speed day and night, already producing parts that can improve our speed. But I can’t guarantee in which calendar week we’ll be back to normal. The subject is too complex for that. But what I can say is that we at McLaren have every opportunity to fight back, both in terms of people and resources.
How did the drivers deal with the first disappointment? Norris and Ricciardo look forward rather than backward.
Of course they were disappointed too. I take my hat off to how they handled it though. You feel part of the team that wins and loses together. And both, like me, give back positive energy according to the motto: “Let’s do it together!” They believe in the potential of the team. What is needed now is the right mix of patience, calculation and burning ambition to get back on track.
Let’s get away from the problem areas that McLaren has with the car. It was also noticeable in Bahrain that five out of six cars supplied by Ferrari engines ended up in the top ten and thus in the points. Our thesis: Ferrari has an engine advantage and everyone else is panting behind.
Our focus is just on us, on how far we are from the Mercedes works team. They have the same engines, they are our benchmark. We were a second behind them in qualifying, they finished on the podium. And that is exactly what we have to aim for.
McLaren works independently, has no partner teams like Ferrari, Red Bull with Alpha Tauri or Mercedes with Aston Martin. Is that a disadvantage now?
It is important not to look for excuses. The other teams have done a better job than us so far, you have to admit that without envy. We have to fight back now and unleash our strengths.
Has the new generation of cars – away from the comparison of times – basically fulfilled their purpose? For example, that overtaking has become easier?
I think so. You can already say after the first race that Formula 1 has gone in the right direction with the new regulations. Not only do the cars still look different despite all the misgivings, but the pecking order has changed, which everyone wanted.
What are the realistic goals for the next three races: at the weekend in Saudi Arabia, then Australia and finally Imola?
Bahrain has mercilessly exposed the weaknesses of our cars. I hope that we will look a little better in terms of track characteristics in the next races. But until Imola we have to bake smaller rolls. After that we hope to be able to get back into the third qualifying segment under our own steam.
Another topic: Sports associations around the world are sending clear signals against Putin’s war in Ukraine. Formula 1 does nothing in this direction. Shouldn’t there be more?
I do not think so. Formula 1, together with the FIA, has decided to stop racing in Russia until further notice. Secondly, it was important how the teams could help the people of Ukraine directly. We did that with the donation initiative together with UNICEF. Both our employees and our fans took part.
So, as has been heard, was there no pressure from above to refrain from pro-Ukraine and anti-Putin statements?