McLaren have outscored Red Bull, Mercedes and Aston Martin over the past two Grand Prix and the race win from Carlos Sainz in Singapore is the only reason Ferrari have managed to maintain parity with the resurgent Woking based F1 team.
Following a back of the grid style start to the season where McLaren claimed just 17 points in there first 8 rounds, the Papaya liveried cars are now the most feared by the competition and could be challenging the mighty RB19 cars in the coming events.
Lando Norris believes the difference between his team and the dominant Red Bull outfit is due to relatively small details, though these nuances do make a significant difference in terms of performance on track.
RB19 just upgraded McLaren
“In my opinion it’s [the RB19] a very upgraded version of what we have,” commented Norris following the upgrades to the MCL60.
Yet McLaren have not reinvented the wheel or looked to build a car with a completely different philosophy and many of the difficulties their drivers faced early season are still present.
“The characteristic of how we drive it is still the same, the problems we have are still the same.It’s not like we’ve stepped back and redone everything and it’s like ‘Yeah it handles completely differently’. We’re just going quicker, but with the same issues.”
“[It’s] the same issues for a lot of it which don’t allow us at the minute to compete with the Red Bull and to compete for championships and compete for race wins,” RaceFans report Norris comments.
McLaren main RBR competiton
Last time out in Japan, McLaren had their best result of the season claiming the podium slots below Verstappen as Perez had another nightmare race which ended in a DNF.
Unlike the weekend previously, the chasing pack were nowhere in sight and Lando Norris 19 second gap to Verstappen at the chequered flag was inflated due to him suffering “10 seconds” time loss behind a dawdling Perez user the VSC.
Scoring more points than any other team in Suzuka brings hope McLaren can quickly close the 49 points gap to Aston Martin over the next couple of race weekends.
“Red Bull have been so competitive for so many years, they’ve been able to focus on some other areas where the very, very small things make a big difference,” Norris observed.
Points scored on Sunday
Lando continues to highlight the RB19 car design is built to deliver on Sunday rather than create headlines from Saturday qualifying.
“The Red Bull is not just quick in qualifying,” he pointed out. “Where they’re very, very strong is the race, and that’s where you get the points. Even if they have a bad qualifying day and start last, their chance of winning is still very high.
“It’s to do with tyre temperature and tyre management and all of these things. Their tyre degradation is extremely strong, their efficiency is very strong.”
Mercedes can get their tyres up to temperature much more quickly than Red Bull which benefits them in qualifying but of course has an adverse effect during the race.
McLaren pole position this year
Norris believes a realistic target for McLaren is a pole position given Red Bull have failed to claim the top qualifying spot 5 times already this year.
“If you said, ‘Do you reckon we could have a pole position this year?’ I’d be a lot more confident saying yes than ‘Can we win a race?’”, Lando mused.
“They’re two very different answers and different confidence levels in the answering.
“So much focus has been put into putting us into the position we are now fighting for podiums and things like this. We needed that. Now the focus will shift into some of these other areas that we need to also focus on.”
Woking gets new production tools
McLaren commissioned a new wind tunnel – which after several delays was completed earlier this summer. This will bring huge efficiencies to the Woking based team given they no longer will have to ship all their components to Toyota’s facility in Cologne, Germany, each time they wish to do aerodynamic testing.
Further the team have overhauled their production facilities which now include a new simulator and several other improved manufacturing capabilities.
The upgrades to the McLaren this Summer were delivered prior to the opening of the team’s new facilities.
Red Bull and Ferrari personnel incoming
“There’s nothing wrong with what we have now,” said Norris. “It’s just the rate of development and being able to literally just go next door, understand something, figure it out and come back and adjust it and go straight back in.
“We can probably do ten more things in a day,” instead of waiting for the results from Germany.
“It’s just efficiency of work, and a lot of what Formula 1 is now is efficiency of work.
McLaren have recruited well over the past two years and the arrival of Rob Marshall from Red Bull and David Sanchez from Ferrari will only add to their technical expertise for the 2024 car.
“I’m not saying anything’s the key,” Norris concluded. “I don’t think there is a key to it all. But the progress rate is pretty substantial.
“What we’ve done so far this year has been a very, very positive sign I think, and a confidence-boosting sign for myself in knowing what the team have been able to do this season.”
Of course the McLaren cars are powered by the once all dominant Mercedes power unit and it is an embarrassment for Toto Wolff and his team that their customer is so superior when compared to the efforts at Brackley.
Lewis Hamilton revealed in Japan that he has persuaded his team to change the car design philosophy for 2024 and to copy the Red Bull design rather than continuing to pursue their failed concept.
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