Trying to define what a Formula 1 team needs in order to improve is simple for teams at the back of the grid. They need more of just about everything: wind tunnels to shape their car’s aerodynamics, a car manufacturer to make the engine, computational fluid dynamics engineers and other engineers to build and refine the chassis within the regulations set by the International Automobile Federation. And above all, a lot of money, two great drivers and team directors to unite the whole.
The difficulty comes in trying to define how to improve a team at the front of the grid, when it has all of those elements in place, but is still not winning championships — or worse, not even winning races. That is where McLaren-Mercedes finds itself in as it prepares for the new season, after 2006 became the first year in a decade in which it failed to win a race.
It begins 2007 with the added pressure — and advantage — of having as one of its two new drivers the reigning world champion, Fernando Alonso.
Although McLaren finished third in the series in 2006, it had nearly half as many points as Renault and Ferrari, the first and second placed teams. This was far from McLaren’s ambitions, as one of the top three teams in Formula 1 history — along with Ferrari and Williams.
What McLaren Has and What it Needs
So what is missing? Certainly not its factory, the McLaren Technology Center in Woking, England, which amounts to the highest expression of a Formula 1 factory.
Since 1995, the team has also had a devoted engine supplier and part-owner in Mercedes-Benz, which is owned by DaimlerChrysler. The team’s staff is among the best, from both Formula 1 and the aerospace industry.