Why McLaren have a realistic shot at pole position

The 2022 Dutch Grand Prix amongst the sand dunes in Zandvoort was not without its controversy. AlphaTauri retired Yuki Tsunoda on lap 47/72 which allowed Max Verstappen to make a his scheduled pit stop behind the virtual safety car and minimise his time loss as he retained the lead.

Toto Wolff advanced the conspiracy theory following the chequered flag and claimed the circumstances were “suspicious.” However, the Mercedes team boss said he would have demanded a closer inspection of the incident had his driver Lewis Hamilton been in contention for the drivers’ F1 title.



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The stewards investigated the incident but found nothing untoward. They did however, issue a reprimand to Yuki Tsunoda for having his seat belt not fully done up while in control of his AlphaTauri race car.

Mercedes had high hoped for the race in the Netherlands and believed it was Hamilton’s best chance in the season to date to win his first race since Jeddah in 2021.

Yet on lap 55 Valterri Bottas with an engine problem bringing out the safety car. Hamilton failed to take the opportunity to fit fresh tyres and so Verstappen passed him almost immediately after the restart.

Russell who had also stopped for tyres passed Hamilton easily – as did Leclerc – and the poor strategy call left the British seven times world champion failing to even make the podium.

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Pirelli bring softer tyres to Zandvoort

Pirelli have again brought the C1, C2 and C3 dry weather tyres to Zandvoort which on paper looks to be the same choice as for last year. However, Last year’s C1 tyre has been designated as this year’s C0 and so the tyres for this weekend’s Dutch GP are a step softer than previously seen at this circuit.

The Zandvoort circuit was built shortly after WWII and is a relatively tight and twisty layout. However the banking introduced by the late Charlie Whiting when the track was being reconstructed is a relatively new feature and designed to facilitate overtaking.

The circuit was constructed among the sand dunes right next the North Sea after World War II and Sammy Davis from England is said to have advised the Dutch Automobile Racing Club on the layout.

Turn 3 with its 18 degree level of banking is double that of the famed banked turns at the Indianapolis oval circuit which hosts the world famous Indy500 race each year.

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More F1 drivers taking “the high line”

Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Mario Isola reveals the impact of the banked turns in his preview to the upcoming Dutch Grand Prix.

“The second half of the season gets underway with a unique race. The Dutch Grand Prix takes place in Zandvoort. It’s a very twisty track with two banked corners – Turn 3 and Turn 14 – that are steeper than Indianapolis, by way of comparison.”

“On corners like this the stress on the tyres is greater than it would be through normal corners, as the vertical forces increase with the much higher speeds due to the banking. We’ve brought the same tyres as 2022, at least as far as the names are concerned: C1, C2, and C3.”

The softer tyre compound will clearly offer more grip and promote drivers to take the high line to overtake in the banked sections of the circuit. Fernando Alonso famously experimented with this last year and was applauded for his bravery and exciting driving.

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Softer tyres: More race strategy options

Of course with a softer tyre the degradation will increase forcing the teams towards an extra stop during the race creating the opportunity for differing strategies during Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Last year was predicted to be a two stop race, though a late safety car saw 14 of the drivers take the opportunity to fit fresh rubber making it a three stop race for the majority of the field.

The teams will face the added difficulty of inclement weather forecast for the weekend event in Zandvoort.

During the two practice sessions on Friday the probability of rain is said to be around 70% which could mean the teams have little opportunity to perform their long run race simulations and be forced into straggles on Sunday they know little about.

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McLaren upgrade can deliver pole position

McLaren who shocked the F1 paddock by being the second best team to Red Bull over the four races before the summer break are bringing an upgrade which is expected to deliver 0.1-0.2s a lap improvement in pace.

This will build on their big upgrade introduced at the Austrian GP weekend which according to Shubham Sangodkar – a former F1 Aerodynamicist who writes for GPfans – has delivered a car quicker than Red Bull over certain sections of a lap.

The focus of the McLaren upgrade was to add downforce which has improved their car in the high and medium speed corners. This has come at a small cost in terms of top speed along the straights, but with its medium-high speed nature, the Zandvoort circuit looks to suit the MCL60 down to the ground.

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Sandgokar writes, “prior to the updates, McLaren’s speed in medium-speed corners was almost 5.9 per cent slower than the Red Bull. However, after the upgrades, McLaren’s speed increased and was 3.2 percent faster than Christian Horner’s team.

“Additionally, the pace difference in high-speed corners and at the end of straights increased from 1.94 per cent to 1.99 per cent and 1.14 per cent to 1.93 per cent respectively.”

So in theory McLaren has a realistic shot at pole position with either Lando Norris or Oscar Piatsri. 

The Dutch Grand Prix may prove to be one of the most challenging for Red Bull and exciting for the fans should McLaren bring their A-gam to this Formula One weekend.

A win for Norris or Piastri is not out of the question though Max Verstappen will be looking for his third consecutive victory in front of his home crowd in the Netherlands.

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2 responses to “Why McLaren have a realistic shot at pole position

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