McLaren need ‘at least another year’ to cure underlying performance issue

Michelle Foster
McLaren MCL38 in the garage.

The McLaren MCL38 is looking to power Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri to victories this season.

Despite locking out the third row of the grid for the Saudi Arabian GP, Andrea Stella says McLaren are still working to resolve the MCL38’s balance issues.

And it’s a problem that may not be resolved before 2025, “at least”.

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Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris finished Friday night’s qualifying at the Jeddah circuit fifth and sixth quickest, and over six-tenths down on pole-sitter Max Verstappen.

But with balance issues and down on straight-line speed, Norris has already joked he’ll need a “jump start” to even beat the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso.

However, his team boss Stella is a bit more confident as he feels McLaren are a second up on where they were in Saudi Arabia last season.

Declaring the team is the “most improved team again by a good chunk compared to anybody else” from 2023 to Friday, he puts the team’s gains down to “well above one second lap time”.

He does, however, concede the MCL38 still has the same “balance and limitations” as its predecessor.

“We haven’t yet addressed some of the specifics of car balance that I think once we do, we will be able to take a jump forward from a competitiveness point of view,” he continued.

“It will improve the weaknesses somewhat, but more work is needed.

“We have another couple of years of these regulations, and I think it will be at least another one-year journey I anticipate to complete this exercise of resolving these balance issues.

“Hopefully this will make us very competitive in 2025.

“But I think more generally, this exercise will be important to understand from a methodological point of view how you develop cards, and from objectives point of view, what do you have to chase so that you actually can prevent these kinds of issues or weaknesses also in 2026?

“So it’s a very worthwhile work that is happening at McLaren now. I think it is a short-term and long-term investments.” recommends

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Stella has urged Formula 1 to incorporate the lessons of the past three years when coming up with the 2026 technical regulations.

“From a technical and engineering point of view, I think the 2022 regulations surprised with some unintended challenges. We have gone a long way in understanding these challenges,” he said.

“And this is also the reason why these cars are much more comfortable to drive now, but can still be quite tricky. They still tend to bounce a little bit, the porpoising, and the cars can get pretty snappy.

“So it’s not only the comfort is also how much on the edge the car can be.

“But all this learning should definitely be taken into account in designing the 2026 regulations, especially if they are a derivation of the ground-effect cars we are running at the moment.

“It will be inconvenient, an incomplete job if in 2026 the cars have similar kinds of issues like in 2022. Or if we have again unintended issues, because we still have time to study and we should touch the ground in good shape in 2026 because what happened in 2022 was very challenging.

“It was at times discomfort for drivers and it was a times extreme, and it was at times dangerous because the cars became quite unstable. So definitely we need to target to be in a better shape and we have the tools now to do that.”

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