Stella: McLaren 'still a step too far' from Red Bull


Lando Norris hailed McLaren's outstanding progress after fishing second to Max Verstappen in the Japanese Grand Prix, but team boss Andrea Stella says team papaya is "still a step too far" from Red Bull.

McLaren enjoyed at Suzuka last weekend its first double podium of the season, with Oscar Piastri – who qualified on the front row in Japan – joining Norris on the rostrum for the very first time in his budding F1 career.

The performance was another milestone in McLaren's remarkable step forward in 2023 and was achieved in part thanks to another round of upgrades implemented on its car in Japan.

While Norris reckoned that McLaren was steadily inching closer to its Red Bull rival, Stella cautioned that the gap to the reigning world champions was still significant.

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"Still a step too far," replied the Italian when asked how far behind McLaren's performance level was relative to Red Bull. "But in fairness, at the moment, it looks [as if] Max is one step too far.

"There's a variability of tracks left in the season, but none of these tracks has the Singapore characteristics.


"While there could be some tracks in which we could be competitive - I think Qatar should be a decent track for us - I'm afraid that the characteristics we like, they are also the characteristics where Red Bull will be just outstanding.

"So we'll have to be realistic that we'll need some situations to happen to be able to make the final step."

At the start of its 2023 campaign, McLaren's MCL60 was by Stella's own admittance a car lacking development. But amid wholesale changes in the Woking-based outfit's technical structure, Stella promised that a comprehensive development programme was on its way and would kick in at the start of the summer.

The first major updates were introduced in Austria and since, McLaren's contender has undergone a consistent evolution.


But Stella cautioned that the team's progress could be stopped dead in its tracks as such is the nature of F1 as Aston Martin's regression over the summer showed.

The team is therefore "very mindful" of the risk of a sudden turnaround in its fortunes.

"If anything, we are trying to be as rigorous as possible, from a development point of view," Stella explained, quoted by

"We want to ensure that we are not shortcutting any step, and we don't get to [a situation where we say] 'we need to develop faster'. Then you start to skip some methodical steps that we have applied so far.

"I think everyone at McLaren, especially the technical leadership, are very aware that the pace of development is already fast. And that's what we need to keep pursuing.

"Then we'll see, once we are in Bahrain next year, who's been able to develop faster. We saw with Aston Martin that over the winter, big steps are possible, or like with McLaren, that you can do it even during the season."

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