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McLaren partnership with Reno much better prepared than Honda

McLaren’s chief engineering officer Matt Morris says his Formula 1 squad is better prepared with Renault than at any point of its Honda partnership despite previously being two weeks behind schedule due to its late engine deal.

The McLaren engineering boss has admitted it was a tense wait during the end of 2017 to understand whether the Woking-based squad would be sticking with Honda after three years of failure or opting for a fresh partnership with Renault.

Morris concedes a two-week delay on the Renault deal, which was initially timetabled for an announcement at the Italian Grand Prix before being postponed until the Singapore race, put McLaren on the backfoot integrating its MCL33 design with a new specification and theory of engine.

But the McLaren engineering boss has praised both Renault and his technical team for making up the lost time and preparing its 2018 F1 car in time for pre-season testing in Barcelona which starts on February 26.

“Some of the things that we’ve been doing, in particular with Renault means I think we’ll be better prepared for that first day in Barcelona than maybe we have been in the past with Honda,” Morris said.

“It’s always nice to be a little bit further ahead than wherever you are, but in terms of all the sign-off of the car, running it on the back of a Renault engine, we should be going into winter testing in a couple of weeks in as good a state as we can be.”

Morris says the McLaren-Renault deal was struck “just in time” and McLaren engineers have been working closely with their Renault counterparts in Viry to ensure the 2018-spec engine collaboration runs smoothly.

In McLaren’s new Amazon video documentary, Grand Prix Driver, it shows the late integration of Honda’s power unit causing numerous problems for McLaren during pre-season testing – forcing a handful of hasty component redesigns – which ultimately signalled the beginning of the end for the partnership. Morris has moved to quell worries a repeat problem could occur with Renault after its delay with the three-year engine deal.

“There were few weeks where it was a bit tight, but since then we’ve sort of been on a normal programme really [with Renault],” Morris added. “It’s not like we’ve been playing catch up. We were playing catch up for two weeks to get back onto the normal programme.

“Even if we changed the engine earlier we could have done a lot of things earlier. But we try and push it as late as possible anyway, things like the chassis and gearbox layout, so it coincided with the last minute call, ‘we really need to release the chassis now, Eric, Zak, can you tell me which engine we’re putting in?’ Luckily they sorted that one just in time.”

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