“Urgent work” needed at McLaren F1 to be raceable and competitive at Monza: Stella

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Photo Credit: McLaren Racing

It’s been a tumultuous season thus far for Woking’s papaya racing team. After playing down any initial hopes for initial pace at the launch of the MCL60, then having a nightmare at the opening race in Bahrain, it didn’t look like 2023 would have much opportunity for the team to showcase the talents of it’s excellent driver pairing in Lando Norris and newcomer Oscar Piastri. For a while it looked like the most excitement the team would have would be in rolling out special liveries every so often.

But after a floor upgrade for Baku, which was a result of off season work in the winter, a huge overhaul was announced as according to team boss Andrea Stella, the car needed a “fundamental redesign”.

This was so significant it required three races to roll it out, with only Norris getting the first tranche in time for the Austrian GP.

By the time the British GP came around, it was like a completely different car, if not an actual “B-Spec” car by F1’s official standards. They qualified P2 and P3, with the Brit leading the first four laps. It was an eventual P2 for Norris with Piastri P4. It was a result hitherto unthinkable when watching the McLaren of early 2023.

However, the team had a dose of reality at the Belgian Grand Prix after riding a wave of positivity for the last couple of races and reinforces to the McLaren boss that the work is far from over.

Photo Credit: McLaren Racing

As is often the case in the Ardennes, the weekend saw mixed conditions, with rain featuring heavily and the sprint format compromising plans throughout the paddock to nail down a good race setup.

A wet-dry qualifying session saw the McLaren pair qualify P6 & P7, despite running quite a high downforce rear wing which would compromise straight line speed in sectors one and three.

The wet then drying conditions mitigated this in qualifying but would prove more troublesome in the race, albeit only for one of their drivers as Piastri found himself back in the garage far sooner than he’d have liked after a turn one incident with Sainz saw him squeezed into the wall.

Norris on the other hand fared better despite having seemingly zero pace on the tyres he started with, and the Brit used all of his talent to bring the car home in P7 even though he had languished at the back after early pitstops.

This has, according to Stella, given the team a “reality check” despite the good progress they have made:

“I think this weekend told us that where we could do work, we have definitely improved. I think independently of the rear wing choice we would have been very strong in the second sector… even with less rear wing. The car is improved in some areas. This was confirmed.”

The Italian stresses that time is of the essence with regards further work on the MCL60 for Monza:

“We take the benefit like, for instance, in being able to do that [final] stint. But, at the same time, this weekend confirmed that the areas that we haven’t addressed yet, give us a reality check that there’s more work to do and to some extent confirm that those areas, they need to be addressed quite urgently. This urgency, for instance, comes from the fact that a second race after shut down is Monza and you can’t go racing in Monza like this. So there’s urgent work that needs to happen at McLaren to fix the situation.”

With just a few weeks until we see the F1 circus arrive in Monza, it would appear that the summer break for McLaren’s engineers may not be too much of a break after all should they want to put on a respectable showing at the iconic Italian venue.