Of the few teams that are still developing their 2021 car, James Key strongly believes that McLaren’s decision to sue P3 will not hurt their competitiveness in 2022.

Next season Formula 1 will showcase all-new cars, with the sport adopting ground effect aerodynamics in an effort to improve the ability to follow and ultimately pass.

Most of the teams are already 100% focused on 2022 after they stop updating their current cars, with most being the ones with nothing to fight this season.

This is not where McLaren is, the Woking team have engaged in a tense battle with Ferrari for third place in the Constructors’ Championship – and the millions of dollars that go with it.

Like Red Bull and Mercedes, who are fighting for the world title and always bringing minor updates to the track, so do McLaren.

“There are different ways of interpreting the transition,” Key, McLaren’s technical director, told Auto Motor und Sport. “The timing of the updates on the track doesn’t say anything about how long the car has been in development.

“We only recently introduced improvements, but these were adopted by aerodynamicists and designers a long time ago. We ran them through the system while we were busy with next year’s car.

“It was difficult to predict where the teams would be this year because the aerodynamics were severely reduced. We are talking about a loss of one second per lap.

“There was a great risk that you would fall behind if you didn’t react directly. In such a situation, you don’t just give away a season – although there is a huge task ahead. We wanted to make sure.

“It requires extensive planning in advance. Many of the projects that hit the car in the first half of the season were planned before Christmas. This is quite a significant lag. I suspect we’ve probably spent a little more time on this year’s car to complete our projects than maybe other teams.

You could say McLaren did just that, taking the checkered flag at the Italian Grand Prix as Daniel Ricciardo led Lando Norris home in a brace.

Stand out from the crowd with McLaren merchandise via the official Formula 1 store

Key, however, is confident it won’t hurt the team’s prospects in 2022.

“What is the right balance between two seasons? he said. “What makes this season less important than another? I don’t think this affects us particularly for 2022 right now. We have been focusing on the upcoming car for a long time.

He added: “It was very difficult to find the right balance. The 2022 car is created on a blank sheet of paper. Of course, you take the knowledge to design a car with you. Knowing what you mean makes a car fast. But when it comes to the mechanical set-up of the car, the aero tools, 2022 will be completely different from what we’re used to.

“If you were in the luxurious position to be able to amortize this season and invest 100% in next year and in the future, of course that would be great.

“But if you sit at the pit wall and get knocked out in the first race in Q1 it would be hard to swallow. Then you might think we should have invested more time in this car.

“At the end of the day, we are all runners. We have tried to find the balance so we are racing at a reasonable level this season but without giving too much away in 2022. Added to that are the restrictions on aerodynamics with less wind tunnel time and fewer CFDs. And the budget ceiling in general.

“You have to balance resources and budgets between projects. We won’t know what the right path looks like until 2022. Each team must follow the approach it deems appropriate.

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