McLaren issue response after upgrades lead to ‘unusual’ pace increase

Oliver Harden
McLaren driver Lando Norris en route to second place at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

McLaren driver Lando Norris en route to second place at the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix.

McLaren have brushed off claims that their recent F1 2023 upgrades have bought them an improvement as large as one second per lap.

Having missed their development targets over the winter, McLaren struggled to score points at the start of the season but have made huge progress in recent weeks to emerge as the closest challengers to Max Verstappen’s dominant Red Bull.

Lando Norris briefly led at the start of the British Grand Prix earlier this month, ultimately finishing second behind Verstappen to secure McLaren’s first podium finish since April 2022.

Nico Rosberg tipping McLaren for wins

The British driver repeated the result in Hungary last weekend, jumping from third on the grid to P2 at the chequered flag after resisting the advances of Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez in the closing laps.

After Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team boss, suggested the papaya cars had gained a full second on the opposition, team principal Andrea Stella revealed McLaren themselves have yet to put an exact figure on the improvement.

According to Motorsport.com, he said: “In fairness, we haven’t done a proper numerical estimate.

“We had our own internal estimate based on what we saw in the aerodynamic maps. And then you simulate these and this gives you a number, which I cannot share really, but it wasn’t one second.

“So, I think, somehow the behaviour of your car and the development of your car kind of helps with tyres at the same time. This gives you further lap time benefit.

“We certainly come out of this event encouraged that we have made progress in medium speed. That’s what we certainly see from comparison with our competition.

“We also see that we do lose time in the three low-speed corners [in Hungary], so confirming that there is still work to do in low speed.”

Having replicated their Silverstone performance in Hungary, 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg is convinced that a return to winning ways for McLaren is simply a matter of time.

Appearing on the Sky F1 podcast, he said: “The McLaren car is the real deal, that’s confirmed now.

“Of course there’s a very extreme track change now to Spa, but we’ve seen how rapid the McLaren is on the straights, so it should be fine there as well.

“It’s such an impressive technical development that they’ve done during the season. That’s so unusual for a team to make such a massive jump from 13th to second. It’s incredible what they’ve done.

“They’re challenging for the race winner now. It’s coming. It’s coming, that race win. Lando is like a Champion in the making. He’s world class, he’s incredible as a young driver.

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 2023: Head-to-head 1ualifying and race stats between team-mates

The man that brought Oscar Piastri to Europe: ‘From his first test, you could tell he was just fast’

“[It’s] unbelievable what they’ve done. I hope they understand it 100 per cent themselves. Sometimes I’m not too sure if they really understand everything because these aerodynamics are just so complex with the  ground effect it’s very, very difficult to fully understand in the wind tunnel.

“It’s much more easy to see flow on top of a car than underneath, because underneath it also changes so much with angle and with ride height. There’s [a] very, very rapid effect going on there.

“But if they do understand it 100 per cent, it’s phenomenal. And they don’t even have their new wind tunnel up and running – they’re still using their old wind tunnel, which we know has massive limitations – so, wow. Incredible.”

Read next: McLaren reveal Lando Norris plan to stop rival team poaching him away