McLaren reveal the secrets behind their dramatic F1 2023 improvement

Thomas Maher
Lando Norris racing the McLaren MCL60 during the first race of the year, the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Lando Norris racing the McLaren MCL60 during the first race of the year, the Bahrain Grand Prix.

McLaren boss Andrea Stella has offered his thoughts on how much lap time his team has found with the MCL60 in 2023.

Neither McLaren made it into the top 10 in qualifying in Bahrain, nor scored any points on race day, with a poor start to the season for the Woking-based squad netting them just 29 points in total from the first eight races.

But upgrades introduced in Austria began to unlock the potential of the MCL60 thanks to a concept direction change, with the team now consistently Red Bull’s closest competitors and honing in on fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.

Andrea Stella believes McLaren has unlocked close to a second of lap time

Appearing on the Beyond The Grid podcast ahead of the US Grand Prix this weekend, Stella was asked about what might happen if McLaren were to return to the first race of the year with the current specification of the car, and how much faster Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri might be.

“I would say we would be seven to eight-tenths quicker,” he said.

“Which I think, at the time, would have been close to the second row on the grid – second or third row on the grid.”

Norris’ best time in Q2 was 1.1 seconds slower than what Charles Leclerc managed to go fastest in the same part of qualifying. A 1:30.6, as put forward by Stella, would have placed Norris in eighth place on the grid – but it’s on race day where the MCL60 may have really come into its own.

“So, from a competitiveness point of view, similar to what we have seen recently,” Stella said.

“Certainly short of one second, no more than that.” recommends

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With McLaren rising from near the back of the grid to one of F1’s quickest teams in the space of just a few months, Stella was asked just what changes he had overseen during his technical team’s overhaul of the MCL60.

“Well, rather than shortcomings in terms of there was something wrong,” he said, “I think the main issue with the car was that it was underdeveloped in several areas.

“From an aerodynamic point of view, I would say it was underdeveloped in various components.

“But it wasn’t only aerodynamics, there were some other aspects of the design that could have been exploited more.

“This is what we did. So it wasn’t simply rectifying issues. It was more about accelerating development and making sure that this development is as overarching as possible, considering all the areas of the car where you can generate performance and lap time.”

Stella made it clear that focusing on the upgrades as a performance gain wasn’t the approach he focused on, but rather how a more steady development stream could be unlocked for the future.

“For me, the focus, the real aspect, on which I needed to focus and I needed to work with the key people in the team was the approach… what is the approach? What is the vision?” he said.

“Let’s not think about results. Let’s just think about how we deliver performance projects in these many areas of the car, such that we can be innovative, such that we can be fast in developing but also developing at a pace that is sustainable over time – we don’t want to have an impulsive delivery of a project and then run out of steam for three months.

“We want sustained improvement, especially from the aerodynamic point of view in all areas of the car. So this was the mission statement.

“I can’t be grateful and thankful enough to the people that I could work with. All the people in the team for how enthusiastically they embraced this approach. So that’s actually what happened.

“The fact that you then deliver a couple of good upgrades is just a result. But, if you only think about upgrades without creating the conditions for this to happen, you can get lost very easily.”

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