McLaren shock the field as third-fastest team in Austria

Jaden Diaz

In particular, the high-speed corners, a strong point of the MCL60 since the beginning of the season, confirmed a large amount of downforce available to Norris and Piastri. 

The package introduced on the #4 will be further updated at Silverstone, where McLaren will race with a special livery dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the team. Oscar Piastri will also be able to take advantage of the new parts in Britain, which could be a pivotal stage for the Woking squad.

McLaren improves in Austria: Only the RB19 was fastest in the high-speed during race trim

A few weeks ago in Barcelona, we glimpsed some progress on the MCL60 in a circuit that should have been very positive for the ‘papaya’ car.

Lando Norris had qualified in third position, but a contact on the first lap with Hamilton’s Mercedes compromised the race of the Englishman, and the race performances were not in the same category as those shown the day before.

In the high-speed third sector in Spain, Norris had been the eighth fastest driver on average on the grid – behind Red Bull, Mercedes, Aston Martin and Alpine.

Last Sunday, the MCL60 turned out to be the second-best in the last sector of the Red Bull Ring, also characterized by several high-speed corners: from a gap that exceeded 1% in Spain, it went to a gap of around 0.7 %. 

This improvement, keeping Red Bull as a fixed reference, is of the same magnitude between Canada and Austria: McLaren expected similar numbers from the first seasonal package aimed at improving the performance of a car born late, but which is growing well.

Speaking of race pace, compared to 2 weeks ago in Canada, the improvement is around 0.2% (that is, just over two tenths on a classic circuit), which is the improvement expected by the engineers

Leaving aside the Australian Grand Prix, which took place at a very slow pace to protect the tires and avoid an additional stop, McLaren put in the best performance of the season in Austria.

The team went from the almost 2.5s deficit experienced in Saudi Arabia in March to reduce the gap to just 7 tenths (about 1 second on a classic track) at Zeltweg.

In Austria, we saw confirmation of the strength of the MCL60’s mechanics. Even in the low-speed corners, the Woking single-seater has been a relatively strong point since Bahrain – although medium-speed has been a weakness.

Last weekend has also seen improvements in that respect, with Norris’s qualifying lap proven as one of the quickest into the only medium-speed corner on the track, turn one. 

One problem that remains to be solved in order to reach the ‘top teams’ is McLaren’s significant drag. This problem has been evident since the start of the year, with some progress being made to catch up with Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari.

In Austria, the MCL60 was fifth-fastest on the straight, behind Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and Haas, and there will be updates in the future to further improve the drag. 

Lando Norris pointed out that, in any case, one of the most important problems of the ‘papaya’ car is that of poor handling:

“The car goes faster in every type of corner, but the driving style to be adopted is still the same: the next problem we have to solve is just that, everything we’ve complained about since the beginning of the year is still the same, but now the performance is better.”

Along with Ferrari and Haas, McLaren is the team that loses the most performance from Saturday to Sunday (about four-tenths on average compared to Red Bull), and the Englishman confessed that he was “a bit nervous before the race because I thought the race pace would have let us down.”

The Silverstone weekend could be even better for the home team: the English track, like the Austrian one, has many corners to go through at different speeds but fewer straights and DRS zones – another weakness of the MCL60. 

On paper, the British Grand Prix should be another positive round for McLaren after Austria, and there will be further parts to add to last week’s advance package to try and close the gap to Alpine (18 points) in the standings and get close to fifth place in the Constructors’ championship.

Author: Andrea Vergani

Co-Author: Paolo D’Alessandro

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang