McLaren: Why was the MCL60 so fast in Silverstone?

Jaden Diaz

“If there’s one place during the season where I would like to win or at least get on the podium, it’s here at Silverstone,” said Lando Norris as he entered the tenth weekend of the season. 

“This is my home, so it would be my favourite place to do it, even more than Monaco or other races that are considered special.” Clearly, the British driver spoke this into existence.

Thanks to a monstrous and surprising performance by the MCL60, the English driver was able to secure the second step of the podium, while his teammate Piastri had to settle for fourth place.

However, without the Safety Car caused by the failure of the Ferrari PU on Magnussen’s Haas, it would certainly have been an all-orange podium. 

Oscar Piastri did not put a foot wrong in Britain, and was very comfortably in third place before an untimely Safety Car put him behind Lewis Hamilton at the restart.

McLaren’s season properly began in Baku – Austria was the first performance package

“Our season started in Austria,” said a euphoric Zak Brown after the race. There is some truth to what the American manager said, given that the start of the season was rather ‘special’ for the Woking team. 

To understand it, we need to take a leap back to last summer, when the Federation introduced important changes to the 2023 technical regulation to remove the trigger of aerodynamic jumping, raising the edges of the bottoms and the attachment point of the diffuser.

“It was a big blow for us because we lost more than we thought,” confessed James Key, now a former employee of the Papaya squad and the next Technical Director of Alfa Romeo.

“We worked to find solutions, but we were forced to completely change our approach on the floor, and this took a long time,” she concluded.

An early season MCL60 came out, which was nothing more than a 2022 car adapted to the regulatory changes. The important step forward of the orange car compared to its debut in Bahrain should therefore come as no surprise.

FIA 2023 rule changes on floor and diffuser
2023 regulatory changes to background and diffuser – Illustration by Rosario Giuliana.

From a technical point of view, the real technical start of the season for Mclaren arrived in Baku with the introduction of a new floor.

“It was a major conceptual shift.” had made known the team principal, Andrea Stella.

It brought us some lap time gains, but not much as it was the base version of what you then saw in Austria, where we brought the first real development package, more focused on extracting performance from the car,” continued the Italian engineer. In the order of 3 tenths of a second on a track like Silverstone

Above all, new sides and an evolution of the bottom because the two components work together aerodynamically.

“If there’s a team that says the sides don’t play a role in current regulations, then they have long noses like Pinocchio,” the McLaren team principal said with a smile.

A package that should have arrived at Silverstone for both cars, but in Woking, they did everything possible to bring two specimens already to Austria.

Although both vehicles could have been equipped with the new items at the Red Bull Ring, there would have been a risk of not having spare parts in the event of an accident, especially with parc ferme coming into effect as early as Friday on a weekend with Sprint Race. 

A new front wing then arrived at Silverstone, along with other minor aerodynamic components, all with the aim of increasing downforce. News that Piastri will be able to use in Hungary.

Silverstone is a McLaren-friendly track, with favourable weather conditions

“After the race in Austria, we wondered if our performance was only linked to the type of track,” said Zak Brown. 

In fact, confirmations were needed, so much so that the goal going into the tenth weekend of the season was certainly not to try to worry Red Bull but to confirm the excellent Austrian performance, where the MCL60 had shown itself to be third behind Ferrari but above all ahead to Mercedes and Aston.

“It was amazing to see how strong their car was in the fast corners.” said a surprised Lewis Hamilton, who admitted that the MCL60 was 100% faster than the W14 at Silverstone too.

McLaren performed excellently in the cold qualifying in Barcelona, ​​then Spielberg and Silverstone, but not only on Saturday. All circuits where there is little need to be on the brakes and where aerodynamics are especially important in fast corners.

“There’s clearly a pattern,” confirms team boss Andrea Stella, who then goes on to explain:

“Fast cornering and cool temperatures are the conditions our car likes best.” However, updates have also contributed to the progress of the MCL60, which has now become more efficient in high-speed sections, a type of corner very present at Silverstone. 

The orange car, on the other hand, finds it more difficult on stop&go tracks, such as Montreal, for example. This is where teams like Ferrari and especially Aston Martin find an excellent combination with the strengths of their cars.

Hungary will be a complicated track, especially if it’s hot

“In the next races, we’ll find out where we are: Austria and Silverstone are tracks that are friendly to us, and there are corners where we know our car develops a lot of downforce. 

“So, a lot depends on the track and the temperatures since our car loves cool temperatures. Now we have to make it more competitive even in the heat.” Andrea Stella made it known. 

Intense heat is often the protagonist of the Hungarian weekend, a stage that F1 will face in the weekend following the next one.

However, some weaknesses of the MCL60 have not yet been addressed with the update package introduced between Austria and Silverstone. “We have solved 30 percent of our weaknesses. We’ve added more downforce, but that’s only part of the solution,” Lando Norris said. 

With the new package, downforce has increased with the same air resistance. Thus the MCL60 warms up the tires quickly. It is no coincidence that in cold conditions, it is very competitive, and then it is more difficult to manage the tires in the race, especially with higher temperatures.

At Silverstone, the Woking team had so rightly baptized the use of the harder compounds, precisely because of the particular characteristics of their car, that it just so happened that it had no difficulty in quickly igniting the harder compound when restarting from the Safety Car.

And while Hamilton’s Soft overheated at the rear, Norris could push easily on the Hard. Updates opened the setup window, which used to be very small, yet still not enough. The same goes for resistance to forward movement on a straight line, a headache that Mclaren shares with Mercedes. 

Two macro problems that Mclaren will try to resolve in the second half of the year.

Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang