Lando Norris will race McLaren’s upgraded nose for the first time in the Russian Grand Prix to help validate an imminent, bigger, package the team is planning as part of a new development direction.
McLaren tested a new narrow-pillared front wing assembly during the first free practice session at Mugello two weeks ago on Carlos Sainz Jr’s car, then tried it again with Norris on Friday at Sochi.
It opted to continue with the design for qualifying and the rest of the weekend, having initially suggested it might not race until later in the year.
The upgrade is part of a wider series of developments from McLaren that will be introduced in the coming weeks but a decision on whether to further pursue this concept had to be taken this month.
That is because the homologation deadline for the front impact structure, which must be frozen for the rest of the year and 2021, is September 30 and McLaren wanted to test the part properly on track.
“We are happy with how the nose was working,” said team principal Andreas Seidl.
“The reason why Lando kept the nose on was because he did the main work yesterday, and with the crash Carlos had in the morning [pictured below] he only had the opportunity for one lap, which just wasn’t enough.
“We’re quite restricted at the moment, with the number of parts. That’s the reason why Lando is running it.
“It did what we expected from it yesterday, in terms of performance compared to the baseline at the moment it’s not a step forward really, because it’s just the beginning of a package we bring over the next couple of races.
“We obviously then hope that we can make a good step forward in terms of performance.
“It’s a new development direction, where we see a lot of potential going forward with ongoing developments for this year but also for next year.
“And that’s the reason why we investigate this direction.”
Norris qualified two places behind Sainz at Sochi, three tenths slower than his team-mate as they lined up sixth and eighth.
He said he felt little difference on track but that the upgrade was important to the team’s development direction and something that may bring more performance when combined with the rest of the package.
“There’s not a huge difference between the wings, it’s not like a big step forward,” Norris said.
“It’s part of a bigger package and with the rest of the package hopefully coming in the next few races, it will come alive a bit more than what it has done this weekend.
“There’s some positives about it, we think it’s the way we need to work in and to move forward into the future, into next year.
“So that’s our aim, but for this weekend there’s some good things about it, and we need to try and exploit them over the next few weekends and the next few races with the other parts that are coming.”