The Spanish GP was another disappointing event for McLaren, especially given the excitement after Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri’s Q3 appearances – with the British driver even putting himself on the second row of the grid.
Unfortunately for the Woking squad, the promise shown by the MCL60 in qualifying was not replicated on Sunday, as both drivers fell outside the points.
Although contact with Lewis Hamilton on the first lap made the Spanish GP a race of damage limitation for Norris, the 23-year-old made clear that a top-10 finish would have been difficult irrespective of his damage.
With McLaren losing ground to the front-runners over winter (an especially painful process given Aston Martin’s ascension), there is understandable some frustration about the progress being made at Woking.
This sense of unease is clearly present within the team, and not just on the outside, with the papaya squad conducting a series of changes to its staff and technical personnel in the first half of 2023.
A new wind tunnel and other key infrastructure projects are being finalised this year, which – at least on paper – is a boost for everyone working at Woking.
Lando Norris has described the MCL60 as the seventh or eighth-fastest car, making no effort to sugar-coat his analysis of the team’s current level of performance.
In a season where 6th place in the constructors could be McLaren’s finishing position, team principal Andrea Stella remains adamant that the team at Woking is prepared for long-term success:
“Canada is a track that many drivers enjoy. It’s another challenging circuit, fast flowing but with low-speed corners and loads of braking and traction.
“We’re on the right trajectory as a team for the long-term foundation, and we know results will start to come to us once we improve the car.
“In the meantime, we’ll try and extract the most from the next GP in Canada.”
In some ways, Stella is correct to emphasise the foundations that have been placed to allow McLaren to succeed in the future. After all, part of his duty as team principal is to encourage and motivate his squad.
However, given the team’s stagnation over the past decade or so, it seems reasonable to conclude that most observers have adopted an “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude to these promises of improvement.
Considering the broader context of McLaren’s struggles and the impressive gains made by rival teams, it is hard to criticise this mindset.
There is always a reason why for an F1 team to fall short of its goals, so Andrea Stella must work to prevent this set of regulations from being a spell of midfield running for McLaren.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang