LE CASTELLET, France -- McLaren has traced its lack of performance to a shortfall in its understanding of the car's aerodynamics, leaving it scrabbling for answers at this weekend's French Grand Prix.
The British team has been at the centre of a media storm this weekend after a small group of employees aired their grievances to the Daily Mail. The reports resulted in racing director Eric Boullier facing awkward questions during Friday's FIA press conference and the pressure was ratcheted up when both cars failed to make it out of the first session of qualifying on Saturday.
Boullier skipped McLaren's usual post-qualifying media briefing to work with the team's engineers, leaving executive director Zak Brown to field questions on the car's lack of performance.
"I think we have identified the areas in which we have a problem or problems," he said. "It's in aerodynamics. It's something that doesn't show up in the wind tunnel.
"Therefore we can't try and solve it in the windtunnel because we can't replicate the issue or issues in the wind tunnel, so we have to try and fix the issues at the race track. And with no testing, or very limited testing, I think you could see that we were running different configuration wings this weekend, different floors, and unfortunately we are having to test and experiment at the race track.
"While most other teams are now on their development path and their base programme is working for them, we are having to identify and solve these issues. We had some different aerodynamic devices last year that we don't have this year, so we are having to sort these issues out at the race track."
Although McLaren has its own wind tunnel at its Woking base it opts to rent out Toyota's more advanced facility in Cologne for its F1 work. Brown admits the problem is not down to the Cologne wind tunnel itself, but an issue on the car that cannot be replicated in simulations.
"I think the Toyota wind tunnel is fine -- I completely agree with you on that, it's not a wind tunnel issue. The characteristic of the race car -- because you can't simulate everything in the wind tunnel -- and what we've identified as the areas of weakness simply doesn't show up in the wind tunnel, whether it's Toyota's or someone else's, so it's something we need to develop at the race track."
When Brown was asked if Boullier would remain at the team until the final race in Abu Dhabi, he said: "I can confirm that everybody on the race team will be in Abu Dhabi."
But when pushed on whether that meant Boullier's job was safe, he added: "I'm not going to get into any personnel changes. As a race team of 700 to 800 people, Eric is a valued member of the team. Clearly we have to identify why we have missed this year's aerodynamics and the development of the car."