The ‘real game-changer’ that has transformed McLaren’s season

Michelle Foster
Oscar Piastri leads Lando Norris. Hungary July 2023

Oscar Piastri leads his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris. Hungary July 2023

Edging ahead of Mercedes and Ferrari on the track in the upgraded MCL60, Andrea Stella says that has less to do with McLaren’s extra wind tunnel time than it does with the “quality” ideas being tested.

Fifth in last year’s championship, McLaren were given more time under Formula 1’s aerodynamic testing restriction scale to use in the wind tunnel than the teams who finished ahead of them; Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, and Alpine.

But as has been shown this season, it’s not about the time allotted, it’s about using it wisely.

ATR time counts for little without ‘quality’ ideas

McLaren started the championship on the back foot with the company’s CEO Zak Brown admitting they’d missed their development targets. Since then, it’s been a game of catch-up.

Racing one of the slowest cars in the opening rounds, McLaren introduced a massive upgrade at the Austrian Grand Prix with the car sporting redesigned sidepods, diffuser, and Halo, to name a few changes.

Lando Norris went on to bag back-to-back runner-up results at the British and Hungarian Grands Prix while Oscar Piastri was on the podium at Spa’s sprint race.

McLaren’s improvements have put them 56 points clear of sixth-placed Alpine, their 2022 rival, while it has been suggested if their progress continues, they could challenge for fourth place.

Stella was recently asked if McLaren’s upswing was the ATR sliding scale playing out in the Woking team’s favour, and while he agrees it had a role to play, he says it’s the bright ideas being tested in the wind tunnel that count for more than the time.

“We certainly welcome having a few more hours than the top teams, we especially welcome it because it looks like we now have good ideas to bring to the wind tunnel,” he told the media, including

“As I’ve said before, you can have many, many hours in the winter but the real game-changer is the quality of the ideas and the quality of the concepts you put in the wind tunnel development.

“And because now we seem to be in a good position from this point of view we welcome the extra hours.” recommends

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McLaren may have closed up on Mercedes and Ferrari but the Woking team still trails Red Bull despite the MCL60 now baring a striking resemblance to the all-conquering RB19.

Stella concedes Red Bull have had a lot more time with the downwash concept having used it since the beginning of last season.

“Well, they seem to have pursued this concept for some time so I think they may be taking some advantage from having a lot of experience in developing this kind of configuration,” he said. “I think this has now become apparent over time.”

Stella’s comments about Formula 1’s ATR scale come as Dutch pundit Tom Coronel accused Red Bull’s main rivals, Ferrari and Mercedes, of missing a “huge opportunity” to close the gap on the Milton Keynes squad who have less ATR time than any other team.

“The regulations have never been such that the top team has the least chance on paper,” he told “These regulations should offer opportunities, and the wind tunnel penalty was added to that.

“With the rules as they are now, it is very clear to me that Ferrari have missed a huge opportunity and that Mercedes have also missed a huge opportunity. Also, think about Alpine, because what are they all doing in recent years?”

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