McLaren: Criticism became motivation to improve 2023 car

Jaden Diaz
21 Aug, 2023

McLaren was the subject of heavy criticism to start 2023, struggling to score points with the MCL360. Although some of their early-season struggles can be attributed to misfortune and issues in testing, their lack of performance was still a concern.

Points in Australia and Baku helped ease some of the more alarmist concerns surrounding the team, although the British squad seemed destined for a year in the midfield.

Considering the step forward taken by Aston Martin over winter, the excuses for failing to develop and climb the field became increasingly empty.

However, several senior personnel at McLaren – mainly Andrea Stella – insisted that upgrades would rectify the situation. The McLaren team principal acknowledged, even before Bahrain testing, that targets were missed over winter.

The strategy at Woking was to rectify this failure mid-season, and the execution of this plan has been outstanding since the first upgrades were introduced at the Austrian GP.

Andrea Stella (ITA) McLaren Team Principal in the FIA Press Conference.
21.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, Practice Day.
– www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: XPB Images

Prior to their resurgence, there were growing concerns about Lando Norris’ frustrations with his team’s performance.

Although the British driver committed to a long-term contract, whispers about his departure were inevitable so long as McLaren stagnated in the midfield.

Speaking after the summer break, Zak Brown explained that any criticisms about the team’s performance (from Norris or anyone else) have only served as motivation:

“We’re happy and frustrated together. So if he [Norris] made a comment, it’s coherent. It’s motivating,” he told motorsport.com.

“We don’t break down; we fight hard. Considering the bad start to the season, it’s been tough.”

“Meanwhile, underneath the surface, we knew we were seeing big developments in the wind tunnel.

“So it was like publicly taking a beating at the start of the year, even though we knew underneath that things were going very well.”

Although significant resources are invested by teams into media and PR, there is no better remedy for bad press than results.

McLaren has momentum on its side, but – as seen in Belgium – they cannot be complacent. Rivals will continue pushing to optimise performance, and poorly executed weekends will result in dropped points.

There has been speculation about whether McLaren can jump into the top four in the standings. Such discussions are understandable, given recent results.

With that said, perhaps the emphasis should be ensuring that the necessary data is collected for the team to understand their evolved concept and confidently develop their 2024 car.

Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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