It was a negative start to the season for McLaren, even described as ‘my most difficult in Formula 1’ by Lando Norris, who continues to set the standard at Woking – even amidst lacklustre machinery in recent times.
The team’s slow start can be attributed to development delays over the winter, alongside the technical changes to the 2023 regulations. With this context, all the senior personnel at McLaren played down expectations for the start of the year.
Andrea Stella and Zak Brown have made no secret of the situation, asking for time to allow the team to work on the ‘new’ MCL60, which would make its debut this season.
The first of a three-step update arrives in Austria
“In Austria, we will have 50% of this package, then 25% at Silverstone and another 25% in Hungary. I’m relying heavily on this package. It could be an opportunity for us to turn the season around.” These are the words of team principal Andrea Stella.
A significant effort has been made at Woking to speed up the various processes, and eventually, the much-anticipated package of updates will make its debut at the Red Bull Ring – albeit only on Lando Norris’ car – this weekend.
“Not ideal for the weekend, but we will do our best while maintaining our usual approach. In FP1, we will verify that everything is ok with the correlation. It will help that we have a car with the updates and one without, which will help us make comparisons,” explained the British driver.
Indeed, Oscar Piastri will drive the MCL60 in the standard version and thus, albeit as a forced choice, the team will be able to make an important comparison between the two specifications.
Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have proven capable of getting the MCL60 in the optimum temperature window – either in wet or damp track conditions.
The young duo have taken advantage of the very good mechanical grip and McLaren’s large aerodynamic load, which make it a very competitive car in slow and fast corners.
Medium-speed corners are still a significant limitation, alongside the high level of drag suffered on the straights – even if a step forward has been made since Baku. This, in turn, has a negative impact on the tyres.
“We have often been the slowest on the straights, and this also forces you to compromise. Let’s hope we’ll be faster this weekend,” Norris concluded.
The MCL60 arrives in Austria: New sidepods and floor for Norris
Norris has been very blunt about the situation at McLaren. Meanwhile, Andrea Stella has praised the team’s progress in recent events – although Lando Norris believes circuit-specific variables have controlled the MCL60’s peaks and troughs.
“We did well in Canada, but if we went back to Spain, I think we would still do badly. The innovations introduced up to now may have given us a maximum of one-tenth.”
However, his attitude is not critical of the team. On the contrary, he is also waiting to find out what these innovations can bring, thanking the team for working hard to bring these updates.
“The team has worked hard to bring these innovations, and now I just want to go to the car to see how much it will take us.”
The changes are significant, both visually and in terms of performance. Like other teams this season, McLaren’s ‘revolution’ starts with the sidepods.
Although this component is not absolutely essential for performance, we are gradually seeing teams move towards the same philosophy. The intent is always the same: to clean up and increase the airflow that is directed towards the diffuser.
The large undercut now recreated on the MCL60 will increase the airflow to the area between the rear wheel and the side bulkhead of the diffuser, while the slide on the sides will direct the air up the ramp of the diffuser.
The initial part of the sidepods and the radiator inlets, with an advanced lower area, is inspired by Red Bull.
So is the large undercut, which, like the upper part of the sidepod, is clearly ‘inspired’ by Aston Martin. McLaren now has a steep and deep slide on its sidepod, with a side wall to act as a ‘fence’.
The most important part, as is now well-established for cars of this generation, remains the floor. That has also changed visibly, especially at the rear.
The previous spec, as you can see from the illustration, had a multitude of slots/cuts along the curb. The bottom worn here instead appears more ‘conventional’, almost entirely closed in the back.
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang