James Key admits that the problems McLaren faced in Bahrain caught them off guard.

The past week was difficult for McLaren. The Woking-based outfit had to deal with the brakes overheating since the pre-season testing in Bahrain. They were trying to find a solution and spend the opening day of the Bahrain GP testing it.

Furthermore, neither Daniel Ricciardo nor Lando Norris managed to get to Q3 in qualifying. Key revealed that McLaren did not expect to have such issues after successful Barcelona testing.

“Barcelona was pretty positive for us and I think it’s a track which played towards the strengths that we currently have,” the McLaren technical director said.

“Here, I’ve got to say we’re obviously surprised. It’s been a tough weekend for us, and we definitely came in on the backfoot, having not tested properly at all last week, because of these brake issues that has crept up on us.”

Key also stated that the issue affected McLaren’s testing program.

“We knew we’re a little bit tight on the front brake temperatures, but here, they just rocketed to a level we didn’t predict. So that took a lot of learning and time to fix.

“But of course, it also meant we were stuck in the garage trying to allow the car to run reliably with temperatures regenerating. So we didn’t really do any optimization for Bahrain: certainly none of what we really plan to do.

“We got some laps, and we did some reliability runs. But we didn’t have the time we really wanted to both allow the drivers to get a feel for the car, at a very different track and to do a lot of work on our setup with the new bits that we put on as well. So I think we came in on the backfoot.”

Another aspect that needs to be improved, according to Key, is grip.

“There’s performance to find here. I’m not going to stand here and say, ‘everything’s perfect’ because for sure this track in particular, we’ve just sort of highlighted some of the weaknesses we’ve got. And it’s a general thing.

“The car itself, the platform is working well. Mechanically, it’s fine. Aerodynamically, it does what it’s supposed to do. The drivers aren’t finding the extremes we had in past years with different rates of balance and difficulty. So it’s a lot more consistent in that respect.

“What we need is more grip, we need more grip, mechanically, we need more grip aerodynamically. And that showed itself less on Barcelona because the nature of the corners there works better with our car than the nature of the corners here.”

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