McLaren aims to carry momentum forward with early upgrades


McLaren technical director Andrea Stella says the team is already targeting improvements in three key areas of development in the early part of the 2024 season.

Team papaya rolled out its new MCL38 on Wednesday, with pictures of a static display followed by a shakedown run at Silverstone.

Last year's MCL60 faced muted expectations at the outset due to missed launch targets. However, a mid-season overhaul transformed McLaren’s performance, making it the most improved team in the back half of the 2023 season.

The outfit’s new MCL38 builds on this success, focusing on three relative weaknesses: aerodynamic efficiency, grip in slow corners, and tyre interaction.

"We had three major objectives," Stella explained. "One was to improve aerodynamic efficiency, the second one was to improve mechanical grip and the third one was to improve the interaction with the tyres.

"I wouldn't want to give any proportion, but I would say that we've been able to improve in all these three areas, even though we see that there's potential for further improvements in each of these three areas.

"There were a few projects that we had started, that had potential, but just we couldn't finalise them in time to have it on the launch car, so they will very likely become updates for the early part of the season."

The latter observation by Stella appeared to echo the McLaren boss’ warning exactly a year ago about the launch spec of the team’s MCL60, described at the time by the Italian as "under-developed".

But Stella quickly clarified his comment and alleviated any worries that McLaren is set to start its campaign once again at a disadvantage.

"I would say it's not that the innovations didn't make it, I think it's more some development projects didn't make it,” he explained.

"But when you embark on some development projects, obviously you want to target them to deliver as soon as possible, but there's full room in the way we have designed the car for these projects to land later on onto the car.

"There are no restrictions from a layout point of view when some of them become available. So, it's just a matter of the time required for projects to mature, and then be ready to be delivered."

McLaren’s aim at the start of the 2024 season is to uphold the strong momentum it enjoyed in the back half of last year, with subsequent updates then carrying the outfit forward for as long as either its budget or development ideas allow.


"Once we put the car on the ground, we will see whether we can confirm that, from a development point of view, we have made a step which hopefully keeps the trajectory that we started last year in Austria and consolidated in Singapore,” he said.

"There is a budget cap and therefore you should carefully plan your upgrades, because it could be that you become budget-limited rather than development-limited.

"We will push as much as possible in development and then once parts or projects are mature, we will trigger the button and we will deliver these parts trackside and then at some stage, we will see if we become budget-limited or ideas and development limited."

As for taking the fight to Red Bull this season – assuming the reigning world champions hit the ground running once again – Stella suggested that if McLaren can uphold their rate of development, the team could have a shot at taming the bulls.

“I think, at the start of the season, my expectation is that Red Bull will keep enjoying some advantage,” Stella explained.

“They didn’t develop the car very much last year. I would think that it’s reasonable to expect that they will have accumulated, let’s say, some knowledge and development last year that will be capitalised onto the 2024 car. That’s my expectation.

“Saying that, I think looking at ourselves, looking at McLaren, if – and I say if – we keep the development rate we had in 2023 that we will have hopefully on the 2024 car, if we keep this development rate then I think we can be in a strong position.

“Whether that’s enough to challenge Red Bull and the other top teams, [who] certainly will have made good improvements, we will find out, but we think that this is a strong development rate. But like I said, it’s now up to us to try and consolidate over time.”

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