McLaren: Glaring MCL38 ‘Achilles heel’ identified on eve of F1 2024 season

Oliver Harden
Lando Norris looks concerned in the garage with a prominent McLaren badge alongside him

Lando Norris is still awaiting his first F1 win, having arrived on the grid with McLaren in 2019

Jolyon Palmer has identified McLaren’s long-run pace as a potential “Achilles heel” ahead of the opening race of the F1 2024 season in Bahrain on Saturday.

McLaren recovered from a slow start to last season to emerge as the dominant Red Bull team’s most consistent threat, with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri claiming nine podiums between them in the second half of 2023.

The Woking-based outfit had been expected to take another step closer to the front of the field with the new MCL38 car, with fresh doubts surrounding the team’s trajectory.

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At the launch of the team’s 2024 car earlier this month, both chief executive Zak Brown and team principal Andrea Stella stressed the need to remain realistic ahead of the new season, admitting McLaren had not addressed all the areas they had hoped with launch-spec MCL38.

Following a muted performance in pre-season testing in Bahrain last week, Norris appeared to sound the alarm by claiming McLaren have not “made many steps in the right direction.”

He said: “We have our good places and bad places. recommends

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“I don’t really think at the minute we’ve improved on where we’re going to be bad. I think that’s still clear. Some areas we still really need to work on and I’m not very convinced we’ve made many steps in the right direction.

“But other places we’ve improved a lot and I’m happy as a team we are moving in the right direction with that.”

In a testing roundup for F1’s official YouTube channel, former Renault driver Palmer claimed McLaren were the third-best team in testing – but voiced concerns over the level of tyre degradation suffered by Piastri during a race simulation.

He said: “I’m going to stick [McLaren] in third.

“They started the test really well, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri racking up some mileage on Day 1 and the car looked very quick straight out of the box.

“They weren’t too aggressive with their tyre choice – they didn’t have any softer compounds of tyre to throw on.

“They were very methodical – running through their test program rigorously, waiting while others got the early mileage in – then they went out and again the car hit the track and looked very nice straight away.

“Remember this is a team that had such a big development curve last year – obviously they’re in a better place than they were last year because that was pretty bad.

“What they want to do is get to a position where either of their so-far grand prix winless drivers can take one this year. I think they might do that.

“But what concerns me is that race running. Oscar Piastri got in the car and didn’t do the most complete race run, had quite a lot of degradation which was his Achilles heel.

“He showed so much one lap pace but the race running wasn’t great. That looked the same and the problem was Lando Norris didn’t do a race simulation run.

“A bit of reliability concerns for McLaren meant he only did 20 laps [on Day 3] and didn’t get a race run [on Day 2] either, so that’s a question mark for me at McLaren.”

McLaren have claimed just one victory since the end of the 2012 season, with Daniel Ricciardo triumphing in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 2021.

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