McLaren’s luxury problem: Surprise performance gain discovered in upgrade package

Michelle Foster
McLaren driver Oscar Piastri.

McLaren's Oscar Piastri was in the mix throughout the weekend in Monaco.

While some rivals are struggling to turn their simulation gains into lap time, McLaren have the opposite with Andrea Stella revealing their gains with the upgraded MCL38 are “slightly more” than anticipated.

McLaren put a heavily revised MCL38 on the track at the Miami Grand Prix, resulting in Lando Norris’ debut Formula 1 victory.

The ‘good news’ for McLaren according to Andrea Stella

The Briton took the chequered flag seven seconds ahead of Max Verstappen and while McLaren haven’t managed a repeat performance, they were runner-up at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and again in Monaco.

While Norris ran Verstappen close at Imola where he was a mere 0.725s behind at the chequered flag, Oscar Piastri was seven seconds down on Charles Leclerc in the Monte Carlo street race.

At a time when Mercedes and even Red Bull have suffered correlation issues between the data back at the factory and the track, McLaren too have not quite been in sync.

But it’s been in their favour.

“What we see and what we expected is just more downforce in all conditions,” said team boss Stella.

“But the car, compared to what we expected, seems to be well-behaved also in low-speed – possibly slightly more than we anticipated based on our development tools, which is good news.

“But obviously this is something that we need to understand very accurately, so that we have the right information to further develop in this direction, because it seems to be very profitable for lap time and also seems to make us competitive in circuits which have low-speed corners.”

Key 2024 Formula 1 stats

👉 F1 2024: Head-to-head qualifying record between team-mates

👉 F1 2024: Head-to-head race statistics between team-mates

“This aspect of the upgrades possibly working slightly better than expected is kind of across the map,” he added. “It’s not specific to low-speed.

“For us, it’s still an open point as to why the car now seems to be pretty decent in low-speed. And we don’t want to jump to conclusions too early because it’s pretty fundamental that we derive the most precise answer to this question.

“It could be a big opportunity for further development, so we need to understand exactly why the car is now competitive in low-speed.”

He, though, says it’s not actually a correlation issue, it’s just McLaren’s upgrades working as “expected” to bring lap time to the car.

“I think we should differentiate here between what is the correlation, and what we measure on track with the expected data. From this point of view, things go pretty much as expected,” he explained.

“But then the other point is, once you bring these kinds of upgrades and this extra aerodynamic efficiency in particular, what is the lap time you gain?

“You do your simulation and you think you will gain X. But it looks like you gain X plus a little bit.

“So, it’s not about the correlation between development and trackside. It is more that the premium from a lap time point of view seems to be slightly bigger than what you would simulate.”

McLaren are third in the Constructors’ Championship on 184 to Red Bull’s 276 while Norris trails Verstappen by 56 points in the Drivers’ standings where he is P3.

Read next: FIA and F1 teams to meet with two issues spotted with current F1 liveries