Norris and Brown praise Stella for McLaren turnaround in 2023

(L to R): Andrea Stella (ITA) McLaren Team Principal with Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren. 29.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Preparation Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images
© XPB 

Lando Norris says that McLaren team principal Andrea Stella is largely to credit for the way the team turned its fortunes around after a terrible start to the 2023 season.

The squad failed to finish in the points in five of the first eight races at the start of the year, and had a single double points finish for Norris and Oscar Piastri in an frantic finish to the Australian GP.

McLaren were pointless and languishing at the bottom of the table coming out of the Saudi Arabian GP.

But once the team brought in new upgrade packages from Austria onwards their performance improved by leaps and bounds, and by the end of the season they had moved into fourth place in the constructors standings ahead of Aston Martin.

Between them, Norris and Piastri claimed nine top-three finishes over the remainder of the campaign, with the Australian rookie securing a maiden victory in the Qatar Sprint race.

Norris said none of this would have been possible without Stella, who took over at the helm at McLaren over the winter after the departure of his predecessor Andreas Seidl to become CEO of Sauber Group.

"He’s done an amazing job," Norris said this week. “I’m very, very happy with having him where he is.

"It settles a lot for the team on the weekend in terms of racing and qualifying and all of that," he continued. "I couldn’t ask for a better team principal. So, yes, grateful.

“I did an interview the other day and I had to say a big thanks to him," he added. "But it’s not everything just on him. You’ve got to thank a lot of other people on the team because they’re the ones who have done a lot of the work.

(L to R): Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren celebrates his third position with Andrea Stella (ITA) McLaren Team Principal and second placed team mate Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren. 24.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"Andrea is just the director of it all," he explained. “He’s the producer of the set and everyone else is the cast. He’s done an amazing job."

His comments were echoed by McLaren CEO Zak Brown, who had selected Stella to run the team after Seidl's exit.

“Andrea has done a fantastic job – he’s a tremendous leader,” Brown said. “He’s a great communicator: he empowers the team, he listens, he gives great direction. I can’t say enough great things about him.”

At one point in 2023, McLaren had been 137 points behind the fast-starting Aston Martin squad, but after Abu Dhabi they finished with an 11 point advantage to be 'best of the rest' behind the Big Three teams of the year.

(L to R): Andrea Stella (ITA) McLaren Performance Director and Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren watch Oliver Turvey (GBR) McLaren MCL34 Test Driver in action. 15.05.2019. Formula One In Season Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain. Wednesday. -, EMail: - copy of publication required for printed pictures. Every used picture is fee-liable. © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

But Stella's management and the hiring of new technical talent including Rob Marshall from Red Bull and David Sanchez from Ferrari has helped change the sense of competitive spirit at Woking.

“The proof is in the pudding," commented Brown “Look at what he inherited at the start of the year, which was kind of the ninth-quickest car.

“We’ve been in the second half of the year kind of the second, third-quickest car, a pole, lots of podiums," he listed. "It’s credit to Andrea and everyone in the racing team. It’s a team effort, which is great to see.”

The challenge for Stella, Norris and the rest of the team will be to carry that momentum into next season and close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari ahead of them in the standings.

As for catching and challenging Red Bull for race wins and titles - well, that's on every team principal's Christmas wish list this month.

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter