McLaren struggling to keep up with competitive midfield
McLaren and Norris hit rock bottom: zero points after two races, struggling to keep up in the midfield frenzy.
McLaren and Lando Norris find themselves in unfamiliar territory as neither the driver nor the team have earned any points after the first two races of the season.
The last time McLaren experienced such a disappointing start to the season was in 2017 during their final year with Honda.
Despite this, there is a small silver lining as things are not as bad as they may seem. However, Norris acknowledged that the car’s performance is not up to par, especially after an unfortunate race in Saudi Arabia.
Despite some mitigating factors, Norris admitted that the MCL60’s performance was below expectations during the race.
Norris expressed frustration with the car’s performance, particularly in dirty air, and acknowledged that their struggles were not new but rather a confirmation of what they already knew.
As a result, Norris finds himself at the bottom of the championship standings after finishing 17th in both races, while his teammate Oscar Piastri is second to last.
McLaren is currently tied for last place in the constructors’ championship with AlphaTauri, having failed to score any points in the first two races.
Although McLaren’s season may not have been drastically different had they avoided reliability and first-lap incidents, it certainly would not have looked as catastrophic.
In the season opener in Bahrain, both Norris and Piastri could have scored points, but were thwarted by reliability issues.
In the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, both drivers were again hampered by the same incident on the first lap, with Piastri sustaining front wing damage in contact with Pierre Gasly and Norris hitting debris. As a result, both drivers were forced to pit for new front wings and rejoined the race at the back of the pack.
Unfortunately, neither driver was able to make any progress from the back of the pack. Piastri was forced to complete a one-stop strategy, enduring a 49-lap stint on hard tires.
Norris did have a mid-race pitstop, but lacked the necessary pace to make up significant ground, even after a safety car period.
In essence, the McLaren appears to be just fast enough to maintain position, but little else. If Piastri had been able to run in the top 10 and if Norris had not struggled in qualifying and started from a better position, the possibility of racing for points would have been realistic.
However, given the car’s current performance, it seems unlikely that recovering to earn points will be a viable option for McLaren.
According to Norris, McLaren’s performance deficit, coupled with an extremely competitive midfield, is having a significant impact on the team.
Norris notes that the situation is not much different from last year when McLaren started the season slowly but managed to score points in the second race.
However, this season, the competition is even tighter, and the team has faced more issues, including reliability problems in the first race and a mistake in qualifying by Norris. Additionally, Piastri’s incident with Gasly further hampered the team’s performance.
While things may not be as bad as they appear, the honest truth is that the team is simply not as fast as their rivals, and the ultra-competitive midfield makes it even more challenging when things do not go their way.
It is possible for McLaren to achieve lower points positions if they are able to maximize their performance. However, the team needs to stop allowing themselves to be punished by the competitive nature of the midfield.
They must avoid misfortune, poor reliability, and driver errors if they want to score points consistently.
Despite the disappointing performance in Jeddah, McLaren team boss Andrea Stella was able to identify some positives.
The team did not experience any repeat reliability issues, unlike in Bahrain where Norris had an engine problem and Piastri experienced an electrical issue with the steering harness.
Additionally, Piastri’s Q3 appearance in Jeddah was the team’s first of the 2023 season, indicating some improvement in their performance.
Stella recognizes that Norris did not have the necessary car performance to make progress in the race, and acknowledges that McLaren needs to improve if they want to capitalize on any opportunity to score points in the highly competitive midfield.
While it may be too soon to expect significant improvements at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, the team is counting on a big upgrade in Azerbaijan to turn their season around.
In the meantime, there are some low-hanging fruit improvements that the team can make.
Despite some potential improvements, the immediate situation remains challenging for McLaren, and Stella emphasizes the need for the team to work hard and improve the car to compete at the level they should be.
This message will remain relevant, whether or not the team manages to replicate their double points finish from last year’s Australian Grand Prix.
McLaren struggling to keep up with competitive midfield F1 2023 McLaren struggling to keep up with competitive midfield F1 2023 McLaren struggling to keep up with competitive midfield F1 2023
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