‘Same people, different team’ verdict cast after sensational F1 2023 surge

Jamie Woodhouse
McLaren driver Oscar Piastri leads the field at the start of the Qatar Grand Prix sprint race.

McLaren driver Oscar Piastri leads the field.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown paid tribute to the team’s growth under team boss Andrea Stella, saying the progress from the original MCL60 to the B-Spec highlighted that with the same people responsible for both.

It was a very sombre state at McLaren heading into F1 2023, the team quickly admitting that they were behind target with their latest challenger, the MCL60, and would pin their hopes on in-season developments to improve the situation.

It is safe to say they did that and then some, transforming a challenger which was among the slowest out there, to one which claimed nine podium finishes by the end of the season, plus a sprint victory in Qatar courtesy of Oscar Piastri.

Zak Brown hails Andrea Stella’s ‘great leadership’ of McLaren

Stella stepped up to the team principal role in time for F1 2023, replacing Andreas Seidl who departed to become Sauber CEO, and soon began a restructuring of the senior technical staff at McLaren, the results quickly and emphatically paying off.

Brown waxed lyrical about the progress of the team under Stella’s guidance, making a point of how the same personnel went from producing the poor MCL60 to the B-Spec which gave them their best F1 points haul since 2012.

After 12-time grand prix winner with McLaren and Channel 4 pundit David Coulthard pointed out the human dynamic improvement at McLaren, the team completing a new world record 1.8-second pit stop in Qatar, Brown replied: “That’s teamwork at its best and hats off to Andrea and the whole team.

“Andrea has provided such great leadership for this team once he’s taken over and you can feel the team’s, as he calls it, World Championship material. We still have work to do, but we’re getting close.

“And what’s amazing is, as I said at the team barbecue the other night, it’s the same people that have given us this car now, that they gave us at the start of the year, but we’re a different team.”

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While a return to regular podium contention marks solid progress for McLaren, as one of the most successful teams in F1 history, challenging for grand prix wins and titles is the ultimate targeted destination.

Red Bull had that scene almost exclusively on lockdown in F1 2023, winning 21 of the 22 grands prix, though the chasing pack generally narrowed the deficit, Piastri taking the aforementioned Qatar sprint win, while Carlos Sainz denied Red Bull the undefeated season with victory at the Singapore Grand Prix.

That being said, Red Bull turned their attention to the RB20 mid-season, considering the RB19’s race-day dominance, so Brown says McLaren need to wait until F1 2024 gets underway to determine whether they truly have a chance of challenging Red Bull for title honours next season.

Asked if McLaren will have the car to challenge Red Bull in F1 2024, Brown replied: “I think we’re going to have a faster race car. What’s unclear to everyone is how hard has Red Bull been running the second half of the year?

“So we’ve certainly closed the gap. But, have they been running as hard as everyone else, or did they kind of hit the brakes and we’ve caught them and they’ve got a trick up their sleeve?

“I don’t think we’re going to know until Bahrain next year.”

The Bahrain Grand Prix on March 2 will kick-off what is scheduled to be a record 24-round schedule for F1 2024, concluding in Abu Dhabi on December 8.

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