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McLaren MCL38 Silverstone Test

Norris and Piastri Test McLaren MCL38 at Silverstone

15/02/2024

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri debuted the McLaren MCL38 in a Silverstone shakedown, offering their first impressions amid wet conditions.

Following the McLaren MCL38’s launch on Wednesday morning, the team hit the track to utilize the first of their two permitted filming days for the year—debugging the new car on the British circuit alongside Mercedes F1.

Driving in wet conditions with Pirelli tires specially provided for such occasions, both drivers shared their initial impressions of the car.

Norris stated it was challenging to gauge the car’s feel compared to last year’s, but he was pleased to report no shocks in what he experienced.

“It’s hard to say just because it was very wet. You don’t really do many laps, and it’s with tires that aren’t even the ones we actually use, so it’s hard to compare too much.”

“But the main thing is, I jumped into the car and felt very comfortable right away, with no surprises or anything, so comfortable that I was able to push the limits… but only in a few small areas.”

“But honestly, there’s not much more to say than that. It’s always a very different thing when you hit the track for the first time in Bahrain, depending on the weather conditions and all those things.”

“We have to wait until we get to Bahrain to really understand how our F1s from 2023 and 2024 will compare.”

Piastri Reflects on Second Year Progress

Piastri, entering his second year in F1, concurred with his teammate’s summary.

“Yes, no real surprises today. Everything was pretty comfortable and went smoothly, which was nice. But you never really know what you have until you compare it to other teams.”

“So, I think we still have to wait a bit to see what we’ve really got in our hands, but I think, despite the weather, it was a good day.”

Team principal Andrea Stella, who admitted during the launch that some areas of the car hadn’t been optimized as much as the team had hoped over the winter, stated that the MCL38 had made significant progress in targeted areas, but there was still a way to go.

“In terms of improvement, the car has improved… (laughs). We had three major goals: the first was to improve aerodynamic efficiency, the second was to enhance mechanical grip, and the third was to better the interaction with the tires. Now, I wouldn’t want to give any proportion, but I’d say we’ve managed to improve in these three areas. Though, we recognize that there’s additional potential for improvement in each of these three areas.”

When asked if McLaren was experiencing delays with the MCL38 as it did last year with the MCL60, Stella downplayed those concerns.

McLaren’s Development Strategy Faces Hurdles

“I wouldn’t say it’s that the innovations didn’t succeed, I think it’s more that some development projects didn’t come to fruition. But when you embark on certain development projects, you obviously aim for them to be delivered as quickly as possible, yet there’s ample room in the way we’ve designed the car for these projects to be implemented later on.”

“There are no restrictions from the layout perspective when some of them become available. So, it’s just a matter of time for the projects to mature and then be ready for delivery.”

Stella hopes that the Woking team will be able to maintain the development trajectory started in Austria in 2023.

“Once we get the car on the track at Sakhir, we’ll see if we can confirm that from a development standpoint, we’ve made a step that, hopefully, allows us to maintain the trajectory we started last year in Austria and solidified in Singapore.”

“There’s a budget cap, and so you have to carefully plan your upgrades, as you might be limited by budget rather than development.”

“We’ll push development as much as possible, and once the parts or projects are mature, we’ll push the button and deliver these parts to the track and then at some point, we’ll see if we become limited by budget or by ideas and limited development.”

McLaren Faces Diminishing Returns Challenge

McLaren does not think it will be possible to replicate the significant progress made last year with in-season improvements.

“I think this year, we’ll see that the lap time improvement will start to have diminishing returns, for the first time with these new regulations. For two years, we’ve seen that development progress, particularly aerodynamic, has been quite rapid. But now, I expect that by the end of the season, it will become more difficult for designers to maintain a very high rate of development.”

“That’s why I’ve already said that we can be competitive if we are able to maintain the pace of development we’ve experienced over the last 12 months.”

Stella admits that the MCL38 may not yet be the F1 capable of beating Red Bull outright.

“At the start of the season, I expect Red Bull to continue to have some advantage. I say this because they didn’t develop the car much last year, and I think it’s reasonable to expect that they have accumulated knowledge and development last year that will be capitalized on the 2024 car. That’s my expectation.”

“That said, I think looking at us, if – and I say if – we maintain the rate of development we had in 2023… then I think we can be in a strong position.”

“Whether that’s enough to challenge Red Bull and the other top teams, who will certainly have made good improvements, we’ll soon find out. We believe it’s a high rate of development, but as I said, it’s up to us to try and consolidate it over time.”

McLaren MCL38 Silverstone Test f1 2024. f1 McLaren MCL38 Silverstone Test. Team F1 McLaren MCL38 Silverstone Test f1 2024.

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