The word trouble seems to be in the vocabulary of almost every team at the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season, except for Red Bull and Aston Martin. McLaren, therefore, is literally involved in the group denominated by that term, and has been since the day of the presentation.
The MCL60 was born with several delays in aerodynamic preparation. This was immediately admitted by both the new team principal of the Woking team, Andrea Stella, and the managing director Zak Brown.
Waiting for the new structures that the team will be able to draw on in a few months meant that the MCL60 was immediately in pursuit of its opponents, but in the words of the team’s top management, there was already an important date to mark in red on the calendar: that of the weekend of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The first big updates are expected in Baku for the single-seater entrusted this year to Lando Norris and newcomer Oscar Piastri. Right from the start, Stella had set a timeline on where and when to expect important innovations that could have made the single-seater progress and get it back in the fight for what was – and is – the seasonal objective: fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Logan Sargeant, Williams FW45, Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri AT04, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
The same team principal, however, after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix dampened the enthusiasm slightly. The package that will arrive in Azerbaijan in a few weeks – there was talk of a sort of “version B” of the single-seater – will not be at all sufficient to make the long-awaited leap in quality of one of the most disappointing single-seaters of this start of the season.
“As regards the updates planned for Baku, we see the factory numbers and these are promising. Let’s hope that from sixth position it will allow us to finish fifth. They still won’t be enough to reach our seasonal goal, which is to be in the top 4 places in the Builders”.
Stella then took stock of what the biggest problems of the current version of the MCL60 are. Aerodynamics is the key word, with the load-to-drag ratio not being as high as expected.
“In terms of the weak points of the car we are talking about aerodynamic efficiency. This does not necessarily mean that the car has too much drag. The downforce to drag ratio is simply not as high as we would like. This is our main weak point.”
During qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, McLaren amazed thanks to the performance of Oscar Piastri. The Australian was able to bring the McLaren into Q3, while Lando Norris – thanks to a hit on the wall which tore off an arm of the front left suspension – was eliminated in Q1.
Stella explained that Piastri’s performance was helped by the type of asphalt that covers the Jeddah track. A surface that guarantees adherence and places less emphasis on aerodynamic load.
“You’re relying less on downforce and making use of tire grip, so these conditions hide the aero deficit a bit,” concluded the McLaren team principal.
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