Lando Norris was the stand-out performer from qualifying, securing a fantastic P4 result and demonstrating why the excitement surrounding the MCL60 updates was justified.
Andrea Stella mentioned back in January that mid-season development would be crucial for McLaren, especially after missing certain targets during the winter break.
Whilst the first major update in Baku was nothing more than a reasonable step, the first indications of the Austria package (which Piastri receives next week) are very promising.
Spielberg has traditionally been a strong track for Norris and McLaren, so similar performances at other circuits will certainly be necessary before any conclusions can be made.
However, Norris’ pace in qualifying is a huge boost for the team nonetheless – showcasing that the MCL60 is capable of fighting at the front of the midfield and even bothering some of the top teams.
It will be intriguing to observe whether the Woking-based squad can maintain this strong performance on race day, but the emotions after Friday’s session were almost entirely positive.
The use of the word “entirely” was deliberate, given that Lando Norris was not fully satisfied with his lap post-qualifying:
“I really am, to be honest. It’s just I messed up my lap a bit.
“I should have had Carlos, but it’s just a should have. I’m still very happy; P4 is still very good for us, especially for a main qualy,” he told the media.
“It was good fun, tricky because basically every single corner you can get a track limits [violation]. Every corner, you want to push more, but you have to be so careful at the same time.
“But the car has been working very well, so I have to say a big thanks to the team for getting all the new bits here because we wouldn’t be P4 if we didn’t have that.
“I’m super happy, and it’s a good one for the team.”
Oscar Piastri was millimetres away from qualifying for Q3, so it will be fascinating to observe the steps forward he can take when he receives this upgrade package in Silverstone.
However, before looking too far into the future, McLaren must still analyse the data from their two drivers and take the knowledge they acquire to continue improving as 2023 progresses.
Alpine’s fantastic weekend in Monaco did not translate into regular top-5 finishes thereafter, so Andrea Stella’s team will know better than to rest on their laurels.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang