F1 News | Miracle of McLaren: Why the true test begins now

Jaden Diaz
2 Aug, 2023

McLaren in Belgium did not confirm the excellent performance shown at Silverstone and then confirmed in Hungary, on a track that was certainly less favourable. The dry track on Sunday put the MCL60 in trouble, with Norris struggling for race pace and very vulnerable on the Kemmel straight.

His teammate Piastri retired due to the accident with Sainz, unable to build upon his impressive second place in the Sprint. Andrea Stella‘s team focused heavily on the wet conditions with a much more charged configuration at the rear wing, which put the car in a crisis in the fast sections of sectors 1 and 3.

“This configuration had given us an advantage in the previous days but, in the race, became a big problem. It was a misjudgment,” admitted the Team Principal of the English team.

The Mclaren MCL60 still can’t go too low

The aerodynamic compromise chosen by McLaren for the Belgian GP penalised the papaya car. The rear wing was the same as we have seen in all the last few rounds, both at high-load tracks and at faster, medium-load tracks like Zeltweg and Silverstone.

From this point of view, the Woking team hasn’t shown great versatility in solutions to bring to the track.

The rear wing of the Mcaleren MCL60

The only elements that broadly changed were the aerodynamic configuration of the beam wing, coupled with a small cutout in the exit profile of the mobile wing. McLaren’s ‘charged’ compromise had a wider working range in the event of a wet track, with Norris and Piastri’s car managing to make up for the slowness on the straights in mixed conditions.

On the other hand, in the dry, the deck narrowed terribly, so much so that in the second sector, it was not possible to compensate for the performance deficit paid in the first and last sector, and the MCL60 was slow and very easy to overtake. It became clear that McLaren’s optimal window, for now, requires load support from the rear wing.

For this reason, the MCL60 remained with almost the same wing throughout the season.

“We could have maybe reduced the drag a bit, but the conditions for the race weren’t clear. Downloading would also have meant not being as efficient as possible on other fronts. We preferred to use the car in the way it works best at the moment,” reiterated a decisive and always very clear Andrea Stella.

Ferrari and Mercedes had the support of more specific wings, which certainly helped in Belgium, while McLaren found themselves lacking in this aspect. To give an example, Ferrari is practically the opposite of the MCL60.

The Italian team confirmed the 2022 trend of being much more specific when it comes to the rear wing. Even in 2023, the redhead is showing a huge variety of different specifications.

Running a weekend ‘in the dark’ without the possibility of long dry runs was not optimal for McLaren in trying to do something different to gain speed without upsetting the balance of the car.

Mercedes was able to differentiate the load solutions between the two drivers, and we clearly saw how the more specific solution for low-load tracks benefited Hamilton’s performance compared to teammate Russell.

“We could have perhaps reduced the drag a bit, but the conditions for the race weren’t clear, and that would also have meant not being as efficient as possible. We preferred to use the car in the way it works best at the moment.” – Andrea Stella

Updates after the summer break will show the true potential of the MCL60 project

The resumption of the championship should see the introduction of a further evolutionary step on the MCL60, announced by Stella in Belgium, as part of the work to put the ‘real’ MCL60 on the track, which began in Azerbaijan.

If Baku was the preparatory appointment for the important steps forward, part of the first real development package designed to increase the performance of the MCL60 arrived in Austria, before making the definitive performance switch at the Silverstone home GP.

But now comes the most complex part for the technicians of the English team, that is to take that last step in which teams like Ferrari and Aston Martin, but also Mercedes have “stagnant” failing to hook up with Red Bull.

We are talking about that important search for efficiency at all load levels, which severely limited the performance of both the Ferrari F1-75, then the SF-23 and the Aston Martin AMR23.

Andrea Stella has confirmed that some of the updates arriving in the second part of the season will aim to improve the efficiency of the MCL60 with different aerodynamic configurations.

This is what many technicians have answered when talking about Red Bull and where the RB19 is managing to make a big difference compared to the competition.

Top view of the MCL60 bodywork

Starting from Monza, McLaren will use a more specific rear wing, as revealed by the Team Principal himself:

“We are already working on some mitigations for Monza which we were not able to finish here in time. So we assume we will be in better shape for Monza and have even more time for Vegas.”

But it won’t be the only update that will go in the direction of improving the efficiency of the MCL60. A series of more ‘structural’ updates and less technical ones will arrive at various tracks.

It should be noted that the Woking team’s car is relatively similar to the Red Bull RB19 visually. Not only will changes be brought on an aerodynamic level, but also on a mechanical one.

Being able to take this last step in terms of development is certainly the most complex part for technicians across the field to make.

This is not just true for McLaren – whichever team manages to master this area will be able to guarantee a strong approach to Red Bull.

In this circumstance, they would demonstrate the new regulations offer a lot of room for improvement for the teams in a more difficult but equally faster way than the previous cars. 

Author: Rosario Giuliana
Co-Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang