Entering the final six races of the 2021 Formula 1 season, the United States GP will play a crucial role in McLaren’s fight for third in the Constructors’ Championship.
Formula 1 returns to the United States GP this weekend after a one-year hiatus thanks to Covid-19. F1 continues to increase in its popularity in the US, with The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin Texas playing host this year. COTA will be joined next year by a second United States GP to take place in Miami.
But as excitement continues to build towards this Sunday’s race, the ongoing battle between McLaren and Ferrari for third place in the Constructors’ Championship will be at the forefront of both teams’ minds.
The Scuderia narrowed the gap to McLaren at the Turkish GP, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz both finishing inside the points. While Lando Norris managed to scrape home in seventh, teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished 13th. The gap between the two rivals has now closed to just 7.5 points.
The remaining races on the calendar will all play differently to both McLaren and Ferrari’s strengths and weaknesses, with Ferrari having a clear advantage over McLaren at several of the upcoming race weekends. The Woking-based team will need to ensure they capitalise on opportunities at tracks offering the use of their high-speed advantage, as every point now becomes crucial in their fight to retain ‘best of the rest’.
“We’re looking forward to returning to the United States this weekend as we head into the final six races of the season,” McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl said. “The United States GP provides one of the most unique atmospheres on the calendar. COTA is known for drawing inspiration from some of the best tracks in the world and provides a challenging variety of corner types.
“Since Turkey, the team has taken the time to review and evaluate our performance, and we’ll take our learnings into this weekend and the rest of the year. We need to remain focused and continue to deliver to the best of our abilities both on and off track as we adapt to work on a different time zone.
“Every point is crucial for the fight in the Constructors’ Championship. As we’ve already seen this season, being able to extract the best performance from our package across all variations of track is key. The position we’re currently in is testament to the entire team’s commitment and dedication.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 19, 2021
The McLaren MCL35M has performed quite well on high-speed tracks with low downforce packages. However, circuits such as Zandvoort have revealed the flaws that both Norris and Ricciardo are having to deal with.
Slow, tight and long corners seem to be where the MCL35M is coming unstuck. Experiencing a drop in performance, often pushing the McLaren drivers back in the pack. As the team have continued bringing various upgrades throughout the year with little improvement to the car’s trouble areas, it seems these issues will be sticking around to the end of the season.
COTA really does have quite a mix of everything. From fast flowing sections towards the front of the lap, to tighter lower speed areas for much of the remainder. McLaren will need to pick up time during the opening stages of the lap, with the knowledge they may drop off towards the end.
“We’ve taken the time between races to analyse, understand and learn from what happened last time out [Turkish GP],” Ricciardo said. “We’re ready to move on and focus on the challenge of this weekend. I think some sections of the track will suit us, so we should be in the mix for some points come Sunday.
“To top off the weekend, I’ll also be getting behind the wheel of Dale Earnhardt Sr’s 1984 Wrangler Chevrolet Monte Carlo. He’s a big hero of mine, so to be able to drive one of his cars is going to be a surreal moment and a bit of a dream come true. A big thanks to Zak for keeping his end of the deal and making this happen.”
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) October 15, 2021
As part of Ricciardo and McLaren CEO Zak Brown’s agreement, the Australian will find himself behind the wheel of the Chevy Monte Carlo thanks to his win at the Italian GP.
You saw that right.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) October 15, 2021