Stella pinpoints exact turnaround moment for McLaren in 2023

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Andrea Stella says the early laps in free practice in Austria last summer convinced the McLaren team boss that the Woking-based outfit had reached its turnaround moment.

From the outset of the 2023 season, Stella recognized that the squad's MCL60 contender was under-developped and would require a significant in-season makeover to improve its performance and especially its aerodynamic efficiency.

Stella directed the car’s transformation while also overseeing a restructuring of McLaren’s engineering department, with former technical director James Key departing the team and Stella implementing a new three-way management structure.

At the Austrian Grand Prix, round nine of the 2023 F1 season, McLaren implemented its first significant upgrade package.

Lando Norris was the sole recipient of the changes, and it was a pivotal moment for the team.

“Difficult to mention one in particular,” Stella replied when asked to single out his team’s standout moment of 2023 on the KTM Summer Grill.

“I just go by instinct and feeling in trying to answer your question, and as I do so, what comes to my mind, almost in a visual way, is the early laps in Austria.

“We had, in Free Practice 1, Lando was in the new car and Oscar was in the previous car, and I could see in telemetry that Lando, thanks to the new car, he was able to carry quite a lot more speed in the corners.

“I remember thinking to myself ‘this looks good’.

“So that was a good memory, good feelings which, thankfully, was confirmed by lap time and it was confirmed then by results.”

McLaren followed up Norris’ promising P4 at Spielberg with another impressive performance a week later at Silverstone, where Oscar Piastri’s car was also upgraded to the MCL60’s latest spec.

The pair concluded their British Grand Prix respectively second and fourth, with Norris leading the opening four laps of the event, much to Stella’s delight.

“We had a McLaren in the lead,” the Italian remembered.

“We had two cars that should have finished on the podium, because Oscar’s podium was missed just because of the timing of a Safety Car.

“That was kind of confirmation we are strong, we are on a good path. There was still good development ongoing that they would have seen the light later in the season.

“So that’s two highlights, if you want, of this turnaround.”

McLaren’s form was such that the team was only outscored by Red Bull since its turnaround in Austria, with team papaya finishing a creditable fourth in F1’s Constructors’ championship.

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