McLaren identify two F1 rivals ‘within reach’ after solid Bahrain Grand Prix finish

Henry Valantine
McLaren driver Oscar Piastri ahead of a Mercedes during Bahrain testing.

McLaren's Oscar Piastri ahead of a Mercedes.

While Max Verstappen may be beyond them for now, McLaren team principal Andrea Stella has said Ferrari and Mercedes appear to be “within reach” of the MCL38.

McLaren scored a double points finish through Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri in Bahrain, with their car in the tightly-congested fight behind Red Bull at the season opener at the weekend.

McLaren set sights on Mercedes and Ferrari in competitiveness stakes

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

Stella said that McLaren had made a huge 1.8 second gain over one lap in qualifying in Bahrain compared to the same time last season, with an enormous upgrade plan in 2023 coupled with stable regulations for the 2024 season.

While the other teams have still improved along with McLaren, they are now in contention in the chasing pack from the start as opposed to when they made a huge performance leap in the second half of last season.

While their team principal admits that the reigning World Champion is not quite on their radar for now, he is very much looking at Mercedes and Ferrari to be in the fight for ‘best of the rest’ – potentially even bringing the sister Red Bull of Sergio Perez into the equation later on.

“At the moment that gap to Max, it’s not necessarily like the main parameter we look at,” Stella explained to media including in Bahrain.

“I’m looking more at the gap to Merc and Ferrari, which seem to be within reach, let’s say. recommends

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“Let’s see where we will be in Jeddah, that should be a more favourable circuit layout for our car, and I think having seen Bahrain and Jeddah, then we will make we will have a proper assessment in terms of our competitiveness.

“Bahrain was a very strong race for Red Bull, even in 2023. They seemed to capitalise on the characteristics of their car.

“Last year, they were pretty much the only car that was able to use to softs in the race and, this year, they were once again the car that was able to use two softs in the race because they could control the degradation.

“So because it’s a different strategy, different tyre usage, at the moment, I’m not looking really at Max. If anything, Perez could be the next.

“Like, we have the Merc, then the Ferrari, then Perez, then Max. There are some steps before we think about the victory, but those steps are not too big, let’s say, which is an encouraging aspect that we take away with us from this weekend.”

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