Lando Norris and McLaren had another disappointing Sunday in Barcelona, failing to replicate the impressive performance shown by the MCL60 in qualifying.
A starting position of third place for Norris – alongside a respectable P10 for Piastri – gave the Woking squad every opportunity to secure important points.
However, for reasons still unknown to the team, McLaren’s pace dropped significantly in the Grand Prix as both drivers failed to finish in the top 10.
Early contact with Lewis Hamilton forced Norris into an afternoon of damage limitation, but the 23-year-old was convinced that staying at the front over 66 laps would not have been achievable.
“Obviously, lap 1 cost us everything – but at the same time, it would have been unlikely to finish in the top 10 today,” he explained post-race.
“I guess everyone’s expectations were too high after yesterday, which we tried to manage as much as we could.
“But at the same time, today is the pace we’ve had all year. Yesterday was just, I don’t know, an unknown special day for us. [It was] as expected today.”
With the Canadian GP only a few weeks away, Norris was sure to manage expectations for the MCL60’s competitiveness in Montreal:
“Nothing different. We’re probably the 7th quickest car, [or] 8th quickest car. We’re not even fighting for points at that rate.
“So we just have to keep working hard, keep our heads down. It’s as simple as that.”
However, he was clear that a strong mid-season development could help rectify the MCL60’s weaknesses and push the team closer to the front.
This forecast seems unlikely to come to fruition, with the British squad clearly regressing over the last twelve months.
Alpine is comfortably the 5th-fastest team at this stage, and Aston Martin’s resurgence has put McLaren even further down the pecking order in 2023.
The first wave of updates from Woking have already been brought to the MCL60, and whilst the delayed floor upgrade brought some progress, the step forward has not been substantial.
Limited wind tunnel time and budget cap restrictions will force Andrea Stella’s squad to be more efficient if they are to escape the midfield for the first time in over a decade.
Like the rest of the field, McLaren must decide if they are willing to allocate most of their resources for 2024 – or if a better understanding of this year’s package is needed for a substantial jump over winter.
In any case, at least for now, Lando Norris is not expecting any miracles in the near future.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang