McLaren issue potential worrying sign over MCL38’s development path

Henry Valantine
Rear view, McLaren MCL38.

Rear view, McLaren MCL38 livery.

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella has admitted that the team’s upgrades last season may have made the car more difficult to drive in qualifying.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both saw their fortunes improve significantly as the 2023 season progressed, with McLaren bringing a raft of upgrades to the MCL60 after realising in pre-season testing that the development direction they took with the early version with the car was the incorrect one.

While their car was much faster towards the end of 2023, some errors crept in during qualifying, prompting questions about the car’s driveability – which Stella and his team have looked into over winter, and he

McLaren ‘questioned ourselves’ after 2023 upgrades potentially caused qualifying difficulties

McLaren were undoubtedly the most improved team as the 2023 season progressed, going from one of the slowest cars in the field early on in the year to being regular podium contenders come season’s end.

They still took the time to look into how the MCL60 behaved once its upgrades were applied however, with two significant errors from Norris in qualifying in Brazil and Abu Dhabi prompting an internal investigation.

Responding to a question from Motorsport.com about how their investigations panned out, Stella said: “Yes, we definitely questioned ourselves – whether we had made the car quicker, but somehow slightly more difficult to be exploited when you go to the limit in qualifying.

“We have looked at, first of all, confirming whether this question was fair or if it was just kind of random episodes but not actually correlated from a technical point of view.

“We think that definitely there’s some areas that we could have looked into, and they affect the aerodynamics side.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

Who is Andrea Stella? From Michael Schumacher’s race engineer to McLaren team principal

The best F1 liveries that never made it out of pre-season testing

Stella added that the aerodynamics of the car play their part in this issue for the team, but that is likely to be the case on all 10 cars, due to the nature of the ground-effect regulations currently in place.

But while work is ongoing to try and iron out the issues which made the car more difficult to handle for the MCL38 in 2024, Stella acknowledged that it may take “a few months” for these elements to be worked out.

“On these cars, aerodynamics and ride, they go pretty much hand-in-hand – because you know that you would like to run these cars as low as possible to the ground – this is one of the challenges for every team,” Stella explained.

“Looking at where the right compromise is from this point of view for instance, just to give you a concrete, real example of where we’ve been looking at, this is an area that deserves some attention.

“There’s some other areas which I wouldn’t disclose just for a matter of protecting our IP, let’s say, but this was one of the priorities of the winter.

“Some of the benefits may be embedded onto the launch car, but actually some of the projects belong to a workstream that may land trackside with some other developments.

“Some things require a few months to be addressed, let’s say.”

Read next: F1 move now ‘time-sensitive’ for big US star as key career moment approaches