Jacques Villeneuve is shocked at how McLaren seem to have “screwed up” their MCL36, while Aston Martin “don’t know how” to design a car.
McLaren made a wretched start to Formula 1’s new ground effect aerodynamic era, the MCL36 woefully off the pace at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
And pace isn’t the Woking team’s only problem, McLaren struggling to get a handle on the brake cooling issues that cost them track time during pre-season testing.
Losing Daniel Ricciardo for the second test didn’t help their cause, the Australian out with Covid.
He was back for the Bahrain GP, but failed to make it out of Q1 and finished the race down in 14th place. Lando Norris was P15 on the night.
“How could McLaren screw this up?” Villeneuve mused in his latest column for formule1.nl.
“McLaren was the biggest disappointment of this weekend. Such an experienced organisation, so much knowledge and skill in car design, it’s unbelievable that they screwed up like that.
“It was really painful to see Ricciardo riding in the back.”
As for Aston Martin, the Canadian had “less expectations” from them as “they copied a Mercedes for years.
“It’s as if they don’t know how to design a car anymore! Their car doesn’t look good. To compete at the top it takes more than ambition and money, Formula 1 is a special sport. It’s not just about marketing and branding.”
But it is not just McLaren and Aston Martin who have Villeneuve pondering what has gone wrong.
Formula 1’s most dominant team in recent years, Mercedes, also have a “lot of everything” – as they put it – wrong with their W13.
Villeneuve says they face a “difficult task” getting the most out of their package with its zero-pod design.
“They weren’t competitive with the first version of the sidepods in Barcelona, so I don’t think stepping back would help,” he said.
“The current design has apparently worked very well in the simulator, but it doesn’t work. There’s no time to do it differently for the next race.
“In addition, the budget cap now also gives less leeway to go back to the drawing board and redesign the car.
“Like some other teams, they have trouble bouncing the car at high speeds due to the ground effect. As a result, they had to increase the ride height, which means they lose a lot of downforce.
“It is very difficult to understand and solve something like this during the season.”
He added: “It reminded me of the first ground effect car, the Lotus in 1977 that Mario Andretti drove. They had the same problem. The turbulence under the car caused too much vibration and it was impossible to drive. That took her a year to solve.
“With the concept of Mercedes you see again: a simulation is only a simulation. You only find out on the track whether it really works.”