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McLaren F1 Progress 2024

McLaren’s Optimistic Chase: Surpassing Ferrari Feasible

04/03/2024

McLaren F1 showcased significant progress in Bahrain, positioning themselves as a formidable force while setting sights on overcoming Ferrari and Mercedes in the races ahead.

McLaren F1 emerged as the fourth strongest team on the grid in Bahrain: significantly ahead of Aston Martin F1, yet trailing behind Mercedes and Ferrari.

However, there is optimism at Woking: Bahrain traditionally does not favor the orange single-seater, whereas Jeddah is much more amenable.

Norris’s Steadfast Hope

Despite the results from the opening Grand Prix, Lando Norris, the team’s spearhead, doesn’t seem too worried.

“There’s a significant gap between us and Ferrari on a circuit like this – and an even bigger one between Ferrari and Red Bull.”

“We have two big steps to catch up, but starting with one would be good.”

“Catching up to Ferrari this year? Yes. Again, on some circuits, we will, and on others, we won’t,” continues Lando Norris.

Surpassing Ferrari at certain Grand Prix seems feasible for McLaren F1: but what about Red Bull? Were they not in a league of their own at Sakhir, according to Lando Norris?

“They were not. Carlos [Sainz] was not far behind. I know Red Bull is very good in race pace, and on this circuit, you have to be good with the tires because it’s so abrasive. They are always ahead, for sure. But in qualifying, they were not really ahead. I think Charles had the fastest lap, so maybe between them, they can fight a bit.”

On the other side of the McLaren garage, Oscar Piastri is also not so pessimistic about McLaren’s lag, especially compared to Red Bull.

“The race was a bit more realistic than we expected, to be honest. Red Bull seems to be in a fairly similar position to last year, the same kind of gap, so it’s not a big surprise, to be honest. In last year’s races, they were always faster than in qualifying, but they might not be as far ahead as we feared at the start of testing. But they are still far ahead.”

Optimism at McLaren

Andrea Stella, the team principal, shares a similarly optimistic outlook, though his focus is more on Mercedes and Ferrari than on Red Bull.

“The gap with Max is not necessarily the main parameter we are considering. I’m more focused on the gap with Mercedes and Ferrari, which seem within reach.”

“Let’s see where we stand in Saudi Arabia. It should be a more favorable circuit for our car, and we will have a proper assessment of our competitiveness. We have Mercedes, then Ferrari and [Sergio] Perez, then Max. There are a few steps before thinking about victory, but these steps are not too large, which is an encouraging aspect we take from this weekend.”

McLaren F1, however, might still have some weaknesses according to Andrea Stella, particularly in slow corners. Is this a carry-over from last year?

“In qualifying, in 2024 at Sakhir, we were 1.8 seconds faster than last year. We have improved at all speeds. Even at low speed, we are faster because we have added downforce across the package, but the majority of the aerodynamic downforce was added in the medium-speed corners. The slow corners still require specific work, and this is what our aerodynamic group is particularly working on.”

McLaren’s Strategic Push

With the first Grand Prix of the season underway, the development race begins: where does McLaren F1 stand in this regard? Can it perform as well as in the latter half of the previous season?

“In a world of capped budgets, we can’t afford to pull expensive parts off the car and say, ‘OK, let’s put all this on the track and see how it works.’ We really need to deliver mature parts. If I consider some of the areas we wanted to address, it takes longer than the time needed to produce the parts and get them ready for launch. So, it’s just about the time needed for development.”

“We saw that last year, teams put things (immature parts) on the car, which ended up complicating their lives and started to give them headaches. That’s not what you want to do. Today, I would say from a development standpoint, the wind tunnel and computer simulation give you a reliable idea of what you’re going to find on the track. In the past, the track was almost used as a development tool – ‘let’s deliver this part to the track, see how it behaves, and it will give us information.’ But today, that’s no longer possible due to cost.”

McLaren F1 Progress 2024. McLaren F1 Progress 2024

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