McLaren reveal updated 2023 upgrade plans as ‘current package is not enough’

Oliver Harden
Lando Norris (McLaren) rounds the last corner in Dutch Grand Prix practice at Zandvoort.

Lando Norris (McLaren) rounds the last corner in Dutch Grand Prix practice at Zandvoort.

McLaren are planning to bring yet more upgrades to the MCL60 over the remainder of the F1 2023 season with team principal Andrea Stella admitting their current package is “not enough” to challenge Red Bull. 

After a muted start to the season, McLaren have improved almost beyond recognition in recent weeks as a result of an aggressive upgrade plan in July, with the team qualifying in the top four at all but one round since the Austrian Grand Prix.

Lando Norris finished second to Max Verstappen in consecutive races at Silverstone and Hungary prior to the summer break and once again emerged as the dominant Red Bull driver’s greatest threat in qualifying at last weekend’s Dutch GP, ultimately falling short of pole position at Zandvoort.

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

McLaren aiming to close gap to Red Bull with next upgrades

Despite the team’s clear step forward, Stella has refuted talk that McLaren are now second in the pecking order, pointing to Lewis Hamilton’s pole position in Budapest that Mercedes remain fearsome at their best.

Asked if McLaren could potentially win a race before the end of the season, he told media including PlanetF1.com at Zandvoort: “To be able to do that, we need to keep developing the car because I think, at this track in normal/dry conditions, potentially Mercedes could have been there with us.

“They were faster than us in Hungary – they were pole position actually – so I think the current package is not enough to be able to fight with Red Bull, certainly, but it’s not enough also to be going to a race and say: ‘We’re going to be the second force here.’

“So we need to introduce further improvements, which is what we plan to do for the next couple of races.”

With Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc visibly struggling to keep his car on track throughout the weekend, driver confidence in the car was a clear factor at Zandvoort with a number of long corners rewarding bravery and commitment.

Despite ultimately missing out on pole by six tenths to Verstappen, Norris was evidently at ease when it came to leaning on the McLaren at the unforgiving circuit – with Stella commenting that Zandvoort plays to the strengths of cars that deliver downforce in a reliable and consistent fashion.

He explained: “This track is particularly penalising when you don’t have good characteristics because you have the long corners.

“In long corners, if your aerodynamics don’t stay consistently on, then you may have a change in behaviour of your car or loss of grip in the corner, so I think this track exposes this kind of weaknesses that Charles was talking about.

“I don’t know whether they are right or wrong, I just say that the track can expose these characteristics that he’s talking about.

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“With the package we introduced in Austria, we definitely addressed some of these elements of characteristics, so definitely downforce persists in mid-corner much better than it used to do with the previous package and we found a good premium in terms of lap time.

“But at the same time, we know that this is not enough yet and while we are addressing the overall efficiency, we are also trying to make sure that downforce is less variable as a function of ride heights, yaw angles and so on, which I think is what affects cars that have good peak downforce, but then this downforce reduces rapidly as a function of these attitudes that are mentioned.

“So I think we have improved compared to the start to the season, but we are halfway on the journey compared to what we think we should be be at the top of the grid.”

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