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McLaren Stuns Nears Red Bull in F1 Battle

McLaren Stuns, Nears Red Bull in F1 Battle

19/05/2024

Andrea Stella reveals McLaren’s unexpected proximity to Red Bull, highlighting significant progress from recent upgrades and eyeing potential victory.

McLaren F1 did not anticipate making such significant progress with the upgrades introduced in Miami and Imola. Andrea Stella, the team’s director, admits he did not expect to gain so much performance compared to Red Bull, which is also bringing updates in Emilia-Romagna this weekend.

“From a competitiveness standpoint, I must say we are quite satisfied with what we are seeing. We did not expect to be this close to Red Bull,” said Stella. “This means the improvements have resulted in better lap times.”

“Because before the upgrades, we were several tenths behind Red Bull. In Japan, we were six tenths behind. In China, we were a bit closer but still lagging, at least over one lap. So, we’ve improved in terms of lap time.”

“We know what the simulation indicates in terms of improvement. I think on the track, once again, we seem to be finding a bit more. It’s almost like you get a bonus once you’ve enhanced the functioning of your car.”

A Fragile Pole Position for Verstappen?

Max Verstappen benefited from Nico Hülkenberg’s slipstream on his fast lap, and Oscar Piastri, who qualified within a tenth, made a mistake in the final corner. According to Stella, this indicates that the Red Bull driver might have missed out on pole position.

“You know, a slipstream on a track with these characteristics can happen. He got a bit lucky. I think he also made a mistake in the final corner. So Verstappen was in a position to secure pole.”

“The gaps are so close that it could have been a matter not necessarily of car performance and driver merit. It could have depended on small things here and there, a gust of wind, or finding the right tow at the right time.”

“He could have taken advantage of it, but I think this does not detract from the fact that he deserved pole position. At the same time, we were in a position to be on pole. But when the margins are so tight, many factors come into play.”

A Highly Possible Victory in the Race

Stella believes that McLaren F1 has enough performance to offer multiple strategic options to challenge Red Bull: “In general, we hope and would like to never find ourselves in a situation where we are rolling the dice.”

“We try to use logical and strategic considerations to see what the best approach is to maximize the result. We must remember that the straight to the second corner is one of the longest of the season.”

“So, the grid position will not necessarily be the position at the end of the first lap. We will see. In general, there are a few strategic options because the hard tires can last relatively long. We can pit early, make a long stint, and try to work with the undercut.”

“We can also pit later and have to overtake some people with fresher tires. So, there are several options. We will see. But the most important thing is to have the pace, to be in a position to deploy these options, I would say. And then we will see how the race unfolds.”

“I still think Ferrari is very competitive. Some of the lap times, particularly those set by Leclerc during free practice, look quite impressive to us. So, if he materializes those lap times, we will not only have to watch Verstappen, but we will certainly have to think about Ferrari as well.”

McLaren Stuns Nears Red Bull in F1 Battle

McLaren Stuns, Nears Red Bull in F1 Battle. McLaren Stuns, Nears Red Bull in F1 Battle

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