Lando Norris remains optimistic about McLaren’s competitiveness for the 2023 season, irrespective of the challenging first round in Bahrain.
The MCL60 suffered a series of reliability issues in Sakhir, forcing Lando Norris to take six pit stops and Oscar Piastri to retire from the race.
As a result, it has been difficult to analyze the potential of McLaren’s package – although it seems reasonable to expect the British team to fight in the upper midfield this season.
Whilst the MCL60 is set to surpass some of the more pessimistic assessments from testing, there is still a significant gap to the front-running teams.
Senior figures at McLaren have outlined the team’s aim to consistently fight for podiums and wins in 2024/25, so the window of opportunity is closing for McLaren to realize this goal.
Aston Martin’s unprecedented development has also demonstrated that rising from the midfield to the front of the grid is possible.
However, Lando Norris – keen to dismiss the negativity surrounding the Woking squad – is encouraged by the rapid progress at the Silverstone factory:
“Where we all want to be is clear: we want to be towards the top. I think that’s everyone’s dream. It’s every team’s dream on the whole grid.
“But when you’re realistic, it’s between where we are now and those top four teams currently.
“So I think what Aston have done is a clear example, and what Ferrari did between 2021-22 was a clear example of what we need to achieve and want to achieve.
“And it’s clear that it’s achievable. So we’ve just got to go out and do it. I think we have the people; we have so many things that we need.
“We’re not doing a good enough job with what we have, but we all know that, and we know that we have some more things coming.
“But at the same time, we have to do better than what we’re doing currently.”
McLaren has already stressed the role mid-season development will play in their 2023 success, especially in relation to the upcoming Baku package.
Given that every team will be pushing to introduce developments throughout the season, it remains unclear if the papaya squad can make more significant gains than its rivals.
Development for the MCL60 was delayed over the winter, so there seems a reasonable chance that visible and drastic changes will be present in the upcoming rounds.
However, the nature of modern Formula 1 – featuring a budget cap and limited wind tunnel time – compounds and worsens any mistakes and delays in development.
Norris is correct to reject some of the more apocalyptic claims about McLaren, but there are still legitimate questions about their chances of challenging the front-runners.
Team principal Andrea Stella, despite the team’s Bahrain struggles, remains optimistic about McLaren’s potential:
“We want to out-develop our competitors and establish ourselves at the top of the midfield in the short term.
“Then, towards the end of the season, we want to start to challenge that next group.
“If we maximize our potential through development, we think this is a realistic target for the year.
“We do this through setting clear objectives for the team and the various working groups, and with efficiency and teamwork.”
Stella has stressed the importance of mid-season development since the start of 2023, so there will be plenty of focus on whether McLaren can live up to this.