It will take McLaren “some years” before it can bridge the “huge gap” to Mercedes and return to fighting at the front of the Formula 1 grid, according to team principal Andreas Seidl. 

McLaren followed up a strong 2019 campaign by securing its best result of the V6 hybrid era as it returned to F1’s top three in the constructors’ championship for the first time since 2012 having successfully overhauled Racing Point into third place at the final race of the 2020 season in Abu Dhabi.

The Woking outfit will revive its former partnership with Mercedes by taking on the German manufacturer’s power units for 2021, while it has signed Daniel Ricciardo from Renault to partner Lando Norris as it looks to maintain its position at the front of F1’s midfield pack. 

Despite McLaren’s impressive improvements, Seidl has urged his side to remain grounded, cautioning that the British outfit is still playing catch up in terms of organisation and infrastructure compared to the leading teams.

“I think we need to stay realistic despite the good outcome on the championship side with P3,” Seidl said. 

“We know exactly where we are. There is still a huge gap to the cars in front, especially to the Mercedes car. I think the most important thing first of all, is to see that the team, this year, under the leadership of James Key has produced a very competitive car, a great step forward compared to last year.

“It was great to see also that despite all of the challenges with the pandemic, that the team kept pushing flat out back home in engineering and production to continuously bring updates to the track, which in the end kept improving the performance of the car.

“But we know what the gap to the Mercedes is, that’s not something we will close from one year to the next year. We still know that we have a lot of deficits within the team in terms of organisation and infrastructure, which we need to close first, but again we have a clear plan of how we want to reduce these deficits. 

“It will take time, but I’m confident that if we do the right things on the team side, we can close these gaps in some years.”

Seidl warned that McLaren must not “get carried away” with its success in 2020 and must remain focused on what is set to be another close midfield battle in 2021.

“With the results we were collecting, it helped to keep the spirit up within the team, to get through these challenges together as one team together with all the support we got also from home,” he explained. 

“It’s simply important to, again, not get carried away with it and it is important to make sure that we get the next steps in place for the integration of the Mercedes power unit. It is a big job that first needs to be finished and then, hopefully, we hit the track straightway in good shape.

“We get a new driver line-up also with Daniel [Ricciardo] coming in. It is great for us to get a reference like Daniel, a proven race winner who has shown in the past that he can win races with having the right material.

“Then we simply have to keep working on ourselves as a team to keep improving.”

 

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