McLaren is not fully satisfied with the launch specification of the MCL60 but already has an upgrade in the pipeline and further new resources that team principal Andrea Stella believes will provide a clear step forward.
The 2023 car was unveiled on Monday ahead of Aston Martin’s launch, and is the first car that Stella will be working with as team principal since taking over from Andreas Seidl in the off-season. With a revised rear end and carved out upper part of the sidepod there are some clear differences to last year’s design, but Stella says it is likely to be later in the year when upgrades are introduced and a new wind tunnel comes online that McLaren can make bigger gains.
“I think it’s fair to say that over the course of the season we would like to establish ourselves as part of the top four,” Stella said. “We know realistically with the top three teams, this may mean potentially being the fourth best car over the course of the season.
“We are realistic in the very short term; there’s good developments already in the pipeline that should land trackside very soon in the season and should allow us to take a decent step forward. We are not naive, we know that pretty much every team will be saying the same, ‘we have good developments’ and so on.
“We also have more high level developments going on in the team. I would like to remind the importance of getting the new wind tunnel come to fruition, which should happen around the mid-year. That should be a step stage for many reasons, not only the fact that it improves your methodologies.
“There’s also the new simulator coming, (and) we have a new manufacturing facility. So large investments that should come to fruition mid-year. This should be an extra boost in this race to become top four overall in the season and hopefully race for more.
“Assessing our performance last year and looking at competitors, we identified multiple areas of opportunities. The good news is that pretty much all of them have been addressed. I wouldn’t want to be too specific, but certainly they have to do predominantly with the aerodynamics. Aerodynamics is the name of the game in F1, so no mystery.
“But there’s some areas, for instance, interaction with the tires, there’s some work that we needed to do and this was done over the winter. There’s some areas of the car that will be interested by development in the early stage of the season. We are happy – not entirely happy for what is the launch car – but optimistic that it should take a good step soon.”
Stella said the reason he isn’t fully satisfied with the launch spec – and his resultant emphasis on setting realistic expectations early in the season – is due to the timing of when new solutions were discovered.
“It’s always difficult to translate what you see over the winter in terms of development into where you are going to be in terms of the pecking order,” he said.
“But we try to relate this to ourselves. While we are happy with the development of the car in most of the areas, there’s some areas – which we realized a little late through development – (with) some really strong directions.
“So we have not necessarily been able to capitalize on these directions in the very short term, and that’s why I also talk about the developments coming just after the start of the season. So in this sense, I just invoke realism. In a way, it’s more relative to ourselves. But it’s such a competitive game that I would be surprised if… normally you need to be totally happy and totally on the top of what you can do to achieve your targets. That’s why I talk about realism.”
Stella hopes the big gap in the calendar in April will allow McLaren to get the update ready by the fourth round of the season in Azerbaijan, and before the new wind tunnel has an influence on next year’s car.
“The benefit of having the infrastructure is a long wave and it pays off for a long time,” he said. “Having the new infrastructure come to fruition in the middle of the year, realistically we should start to see an influence on the 2024 car.
“Realistically it will be very difficult to see an influence on the 2023 car because you’re nearly fully on the following year. I’d say it will likely have 50% of the benefit on the start of the 2024 car and 100% of the benefit on the developments of the 2024 car in-season next year.”