Why McLaren upgrade not yet proven

Despite their Formula One driver line up being as ‘world class’ as described by Zak Brown, McLaren began the 2023 season as ‘also rans’. Having secured just 17 points from the first 8 races, fans of the historic British F1 mark which has won 20 world titles feared for the worst.

McLaren decided not to tinker with their car but delivered a HUGE upgrade at the Austrian Grand Prix, although they only had enough components to fit to Lando Norris’ MCL60 car.




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This translated into Norris just failing to make the podium on Sunday, but the McLaren bandwagon was now on a roll.

With Piastri running the upgrade next time out at Silverstone, he was immediately on his team mate’s pace and only due to unlucky safety car timing did he concede his first podium to Lewis Hamilton while Norris stood ahead of his fellow Brit on the second step of the podium.

Over the four races prior to the F1 summer break McLaren racked up a remarkable 88 points which was more than any other team’s driver combination.

Yet Lando Norris is still critical of the MCL60 and warns McLaren fans the upcoming races will not be all ‘sweetness and light.’

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Norris harsh criticism of MCL60

“We do have a poor car and I would say pretty terrible in the slow-speed corners, extremely difficult to drive,” Norris tells  Motorsport.com.

“I feel as if we’re getting excited and I accept that, but we’re going to go to a couple of tracks coming up where I’m sure people are going to be saying: ‘What have you done now? Like, how has it got so bad all of a sudden?’”

Norris is concerned clearly about the third race after the Summer break in Singapore where there are more slow corners around the lap than on any other circuit contained on the F1 calendar. 

The headline punditry following the race in Budapest was the all new McLaren had proved itself on a wide enough range of circuit types to suggest it would be good everywhere for the rest of the season.

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Hungary not a true test of ‘slow speed corners’

However, Norris rejected the ‘rat pack’ notion that if they could make it in Hungary, they could make it anywhere.

Sky F1’s Race Brooks put it to Norris that the slow speed nature of the corners at the Hungaroring had proven the McLaren was now a good all rounder. 

“They’re more slow medium speed corners,” cautioned Norris who questioned whether the MCL60 had been fully tested at the kind of a circuit Singapore will prove to be.

Alex Albon had an interesting take on the surge in McLaren’s performance when he explained his own team Williams had started rework on their 2024 car as early as April this year.

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‘Drivability’ of McLaren not improved

“I think if you listen to Lando [Norris] and Oscar [Piastri’s] comments, they’re not saying that the car itself has improved in terms of their balance,” claimed Albon.

“They just say that there’s a bit more downforce on the car.

“They’ve made a huge step in that sense but not in the way the car drives.”

And this is the crux of Norris current complaint that the McLaren car is still “extremely difficult to drive.”

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Upgrade focused on ‘low drag’

The consensus amongst the F1 tech writers is that the McLaren upgrade has focused around a new low drag rear wing which should see the papaya coloured cars perform well in Zandvoort and Monza.

Other than Singapore there are no more circuits remaining this year where a collection of true low speed corners would hurt the chances of Norris and Piastri.

This begs the question, why is Lando being so harsh about the upgraded MCL60 and so public with his criticism of the car?

Surely its better to be positive and encourage the team in public rather than play down the huge leap they have made forwards?

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Should their recent form remain for the rest of the season, McLaren are capable of catching Ferrari and Aston Martin ahead of them and pulling off a remarkable third in the constructors’ championship. 

A number of the teams have already admitted there is little more development coming to their cars for this season as they concentrate on getting right with the 2024 prototype machines.

However, McLaren’s team boss is not upset by Norris harsh criticism and insists the British drivers’ comments are intended to act as motivation for the team.

“We kind of get happy together, we get grumpy together. So, if he’s made a comment, it’s consistent, it’s motivating,” said Brown.

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McLaren boss unconcerned over criticism

“We don’t get down, we fight hard. I mean, if you look at how poor start the season was, that was hard.

“Meanwhile, underneath the surface we knew we were seeing great development in the wind tunnel, so it was like publicly taking a battering at the start of the year while knowing underneath things were actually going really well.

“And the team handled it really well, so we’re motivated.”

Now again McLaren have to prove themselves in the upcoming double header races. If they can be the genuine second best team to Red Bull then they will truly put the cat amongst the paddock pigeons.

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