Stella predicts difficulties for McLaren in F1 Chinese GP: “I think China may be a bit of a damage limitation for us”

Photo Credit: McLaren Racing
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McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella looked ahead to the upcoming F1 Chinese Grand Prix. The man currently tasked with getting McLaren back to the front of the grid admitted that he sees the weekend being “a bit of damage limitation for us” due to the circuit layout and it being a sprint weekend.

Formula One returns to China for the first time since 2019 and is demand for the race is huge with it being a sell out event in a matter of minutes after tickets went on sale. The race celebrates 20 years of the Shanghai Circuit and will also be a sprint weekend. As such, this means that there will just be a single free practice session. In comments to the media, back in Japan, McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella looked ahead to China and the difficulties he expects the circuit to being to his team.

“The difficulties in China definitely will be associated with not having been there for a long time,”  stated Stella. “Difficulties can also be seen from the opportunity side because everyone will have difficulties which means like you can get an advantage. I think where I’m a little more prudent about China is that there’s so much low speed and so many hairpins that definitely should not be the best track for us at this stage of the season.”

Stella went on to explain that he looks forward to not having to talk so much about car layout but expects that to come “at the end of the season once we have developed the car”. For now, due to where McLaren are at present, a circuit like Shanghai features hairpins and low speed and these are areas of a track where McLaren are losing time at present.   

With this in mind, Stella explained his aim for the the team’s return to Shanghai and also when a shift in mindset could arrive.

“So, I think China may be a bit of a damage limitation for us and then from Miami onward, hopefully we start kind of a better stage of this 2024 season and more to come in the second part of the season,” Stella confirmed.

F1 visited Japan 6 months ago and due to the change in calendar for 2024, McLaren have already been able to see how their 2024 model compared. Last year, the papaya car was second quickest around the Suzuka Circuit but most recently at the latest 2024 Grand Prix, McLaren had fallen to third quickest with Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari back out in front. It is clear that McLaren are still learning about their 2024 challenger and due to this a sprint weekend will give the team minimal time to extract performance.

“Let’s say ideally, you wouldn’t have had China as a sprint event, seen from a team point of view let’s say it just adds many complications,” explained Stella. “At the same time, it’s not something that we are in condition to influence so just, you know, we get this out of our heads and we focus on doing a good job.”

Sprint weekends are weekends when efficiency matters more than ever and the team which gets to grip on track – literally – will usually perform the best. Therefore, with McLaren currently off the pace, and Oscar Piastri racing at a brand-new circuit, It may be no bad thing for McLaren’s competitors to be limited with their on-track running.

“Considering like I said before, we have some inherent limitations with our car, I’d rather have the others not to have too much practice,” Stella remarked. “Let’s keep it short and then we try to maximise the potential of what you can do in one session.”