Stella says “the improvement seems to be genuine” as he reflects on the upgraded MCL60 race pace

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McLaren’s latest set of upgrades leaped the Woking squad up the order, from fighting in the fringes of the top 10 to challenging Max Verstappen at the British GP qualifying, and were comfortably ahead of their direct rivals Ferrari and Mercedes in the race, leading team principal Andrea Stella to believe the new parts have also helped with race pace, as the improvement “seems to be genuine” in that regard.

Photo Credit: McLaren F1

McLaren’s radically upgraded MCL60 debuted at the Austrian GP, although the team was only able to produce parts for one car, which went to Lando Norris – who finished in an excellent P5 at the Styrian hills. Norris received further upgrades at Silverstone, including a new front wing, with Oscar Piastri having his car in the same spec as Norris had the race before.

They proved to be a game-changer for the team, which qualified second and third on the grid, behind only the dominant Verstappen. In the race, the pair was looking set for finishing where they started, before a late safety car meant Piastri lost out to a late-stopping Lewis Hamilton.

When asked after the race if the upgrades meant an improvement to the team’s race pace as well, team principal Andrea Stella admitted the signs were “encouraging” and that they were surprised to have the edge over Ferrari and Mercedes, who have been quicker all season up until now in terms of race pace:

“Clearly, the indications from the race are quite encouraging,” he said about McLaren’s race pace at the British GP. “We were surprised ourselves in the first stint that we were able to keep our competitors like Ferrari and Mercedes, behind.

“We thought they would be the problem for us in terms of pace. So I think we need to acknowledge that the improvement seems to be genuine, even in terms of race pace.”

And whilst he believes the improvement is genuine, Stella pointed that the particular set of circumstances surrounding the British GP may have flattered the team’s performance, including its abundance of high-speed turns and cooler conditions compared to some of the earlier races:

“However, we are in circuit with high-speed corners – and in Silverstone some of the high-speed corners appears in the race, whilst they are flat [out] in qualifying – so it gives a bit of a premium I this track, if you are competitive in high-speed in the race more than in qualifying.

“And at the same time, it was cold conditions – we may be flattering the improvements thanks to this [set of] conditions – but it’s fair to acknowledge that the car seems to be more competitive in the race as well.”

When it was put to Stella that Mercedes driver George Russell was impressed with McLaren’s pace in two “different” circuits of Spielberg and Silverstone, the Italian highlighted that there are similarities between the two tracks with regards to its high-speed demands that suit the MCL60 better, and the lower temperatures at the British GP helping with the thermal degradation of the tyres:

“When it comes to whether this improvement will manifest itself in the future, even if George says that the tracks are different, actually there are significant elements of commonality between Austria and Silverstone, especially there is a high density of corners in which we know our car performs well,” he explained.

“Conditions like [Sunday in Silverstone], they do help because they don’t overheat the tyres, which is also something on which we have some work to do.

“I hope George [Russell] is right!”, he jokingly concluded.