Stella ”more optimistic for what’s coming in the season”, as McLaren expect a difficult start

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At the end of the first two days of testing in Bahrain, Andrea Stella, McLaren’s new Team Principal, seems very cautious in answering questions.

After these first experiences, the car does not look promising at the start of 2023.

At the close of the second day, Stella was asked for his first impression of the car and the possibilities for the campaign ahead, to which he replied:

“Based on what I’ve seen in these two days, our performance is pretty much what I expected it to be. No surprises. Data correlates with what we were expecting from an aerodynamic point of view.

“Even performance wise, for whatever is possible to assess, based on lap times in test, we know that lap times can depend on fuel level, engine modes, conditions. I’m not sure how much of this is noticeable. The track keeps changing in terms of where it is from lap times to the last one hour and a half today, the track became quite quick. So, very difficult to assess.

“For us so far I’ve been saying, no surprises. We know we have work to do. But if we think about this season, the season is long. There can be variations in the competitive order. We know there is development rate. It’s where we are focusing. I think at the start, we have to be realistic. But in terms of looking ahead of the season, we remain optimistic.

“In Formula 1 the material you have right now trackside is material that you had 2 -3 months ago in development. So the good news is that we have good development streams going on, so they will end up trackside in some weeks.

“Obviously, when you know you have good development ongoing on you kind of realise ‘argh, maybe our competitors already have it’. It’s a reference to yourself. This game is very competitive. If you slow down in terms of development rate, you can’t assume the same will happen to others. That’s why you see me not necessarily most optimistic now, but more optimistic for what’s coming in the season.”

Caution seems to be the order of the day for McLaren. Although the goals set last year were indeed achieved, there is still much to work on.

“Last year, we had some clear objectives in terms of development, they had to do with aerodynamic efficiency, some development related to the exploitation of the tyres, and also some other objectives to improve the balance.

“The reality is that most of these objectives have actually been met. But the objective in terms of aerodynamic efficiency of the car, that’s the one where we are still shy of what was our target.

“So some of the objectives have been met. Aerodynamic efficiency is still not where we would like it to be, or where we would like it to be a top-four contender. So I would say that’s the one in which we are still short.”

Zak Brown commented on the first days of testing saying to media in Bahrain:

“We know we set some goals for development which we didn’t hit and we felt it was better to be honest about that. We, like everyone, have a lot of development coming, so we are encouraged [by] what we see around the corner. But I think we will be going into the first race off of our projected targets and it’s hard to really know where that means we’ll be on the grid.

“We had some teething problems yesterday. We had Oscar doing most of the heavy lifting in the morning, getting the car dialled in. Nothing alarming, just the usual testing bugs. Today Lando was focussed on longer runs, so we’re still understanding the car and have a lot more testing ahead of us – relatively speaking, another day and a half – and then we’ll get to work on race set-up.

“Last year with our brake issue it stopped the development of some other items we were working on to make sure we fixed the problem. Then we came into Bahrain sub-optimal from a performance standpoint, just to make sure we got through the race.

“I’m very proud about how quickly the team did react because we had about a week to solve a problem. But I think that did hurt us at the start of the year so it’s important that we have a normal test session to start the season.

“We want to be in the top four by the end of the year. Last year was a bit disappointing. Our aspirations are to get back to the front. We know that will take a little bit more time. We’ve got all the technology infrastructure either in or going to be pretty much completed this year. So that’s quite exciting, and we have some good developments coming. But so does every other single team in Formula 1. So we need do need to pick up the pace.

Despite the strong words of the two men in charge of McLaren, with time ahead, we will see the developments over the course of the season.

Photo: McLaren Racing