The atmosphere at McLaren has been relatively downbeat this season, starting with team principal Andrea Stella’s comments at the start of 2023.
Stella explained back in January that McLaren was not optimistic about its development for this season, admitting the beginning of the campaign would be difficult.
Whilst the McLaren boss also outlined his optimism for the second half of the season, it seems the team’s ambitions of fighting at the front will be out of reach this year.
Lando Norris made sure to control expectations at the MCL60 launch, admitting that he only expects “small steps” from the team in 2023.
The Woking-based squad has a new wind tunnel in construction, which has the potential to help the team’s development in the long term.
However, the process of optimising a new wind tunnel (in addition to other facilities) is far from simple, so it seems unwise for McLaren to put all its hopes into this new infrastructure.
Speaking to the media in Bahrain, Zak Brown spoke candidly about the team’s chances in 2023:
“We know we set some goals for development which we didn’t hit, and we felt it was better to be honest about that.
“We, like everyone, have a lot of development coming, so we are encouraged [by] what we see around the corner…
“We want to be in the top four by the end of the year. Last year was a bit disappointing.
“Our aspirations are to get back to the front. We know that will take a little bit more time.”
It would be premature to completely write off McLaren’s chances – Zak Brown’s comments are not necessarily a death sentence.
However, the team seems to have placed its faith in the upgrades they have planned for later in the season – which does not bode well for the MCL60’s foundations.
Other teams will also be introducing developments, so there is no certainty that – relative to the rest of the field – McLaren can recover.
Zak Brown seems hopeful McLaren can fight for Championships in 2024 and beyond, but this objective seems very realistic if the gap to the front continues to widen.
At least for now, the situation at the papaya team seems relatively bleak.