McLaren have arrived at the Marina Bay circuit with the most significant upgrade “since Austria”, but only Lando Norris will receive the new parts.
McLaren turned their season around at the Austrian Grand Prix when the team put a heavily revised MCL60 on the track before going on to secure podiums in Britain and Hungary, and then adding a sprint race P2 at Spa.
Arguably the most improved car of the season, McLaren have slashed their deficit to fourth-placed Aston Martin to 102 points, down from 146.
McLaren’s latest step in their development programme
They’re hoping their next big upgrade, part of which the team trailed in the practice sessions for the Dutch Grand Prix but didn’t race, will yield a similar leap forward.
“Probably since Austria, it is the thing that we believe will kind of help us move forward the most since then,” Norris said.
“Obviously, we’ve not run it on the track yet and so we don’t want to say too much until we’ve actually got it to work properly but it’s a good step.
“The team have worked hard to get it on one of the cars here, and then we’ll have the rest in Japan too. So it is an exciting couple of weekends for us.”
Norris will run the upgrade this weekend at the Marina Bay circuit with Oscar Piastri’s car also expected to be fitted with the new parts at next week’s Japanese Grand Prix.
But while the Briton cannot say for sure how the upgrade will work, if at all, he reckons their Red Bull Ring progress proves the team can get it right.
“Sometimes we would put stuff on and it’s not really delivered to what we wanted or what it should have done,” he said. “But definitely up to Austria and how much we kind of progressed since then, it gives me more hope.
“It’s also a bit more slower speed biased, which is a bit different to what we had in Austria. This is our first time we’ve been able to really try to target that a bit more.”
Explaining what he hopes to get out of the updates, he said: “I think it’s not going to help in exactly the places where, from a driving style point of view, I would probably want it, but it should just help with a little bit of overall loads, cornering speeds and just kind of consistency, tyre wear traction, things like that.
“It is just performance enhancement, it’s not like something to make me feel better in the car.”
The Briton believes resolving those fundamental issues will be the biggest step McLaren can make toward taking the fight to Red Bull.
“That’s 100 percent because there are some places where we lose a tremendous amount of lap time at times,” he said. “It’s down to the same things every time, where we just can’t change with a bit of aero balance or mechanical balance.
“No matter what we try we are bad and we struggle, so I think those things let us down in quite a few races. And even at some places we go to, we’re extremely competitive on 90% of the track, it’s just certain things which then make us look bad.
“If we didn’t have some of these bad things, we would be very strong and a lot more competitive and competing for podiums.
“If we can fix a little bit of this slow speed [weakness], if I can get a bit more what I believe the car needs to take that next step, a bit of it is what we hopefully will have this weekend, a bit of it will be what I want from a driving style point of view, that’s when I’m confident we can take the fight to the majority of the teams, including Red Bull.”