McLaren keeping early low profile in 'game of performance'

© XPB 

McLaren has confirmed that it is keeping a deliberate low profile in this year's round of official car launches, intentionally holding back key details of its new MCL38 as part of a game to keep its secrets to itself as long as possible.

The team launched its 2024 car at Silverstone on Wednesday, but there was no media presence on site. The official pictures that were subsequently distributed by the team appeared to have disguised key aerodynamic details.

That contrasts strongly with last year's approach which saw a glitzy, well-attended media launch at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking. Team principal Andrea Stella said this change in approach was entirely intentional.

“We have seen recently that teams decided to have some style to launch the car like we had last year,” he explained. “Where there was a show, or it was launched at the theatre, at MTC, live streaming.

“But we also see that sometimes you may want to have just a lower profile in launching your car," he continued. "These approaches can be alternated over time so we went from last year's glamorous one to this year, which is low-profile."

“This is not only technical, or operational aspects, this is also marketing and commercial," he added. "F1 is a large business, not only technical, and we need to take into account all these requirements and variety of approaches.”

Driver Lando Norris was more forthright about why McLaren were playing hard to get at this point in the pre-season.

"It's a game of performance, why would you ever want to give away anything?" he teased at the team launch event this week. "You see what the car looks like, but you'll see in two weeks or something the rest. So be patient!"

"At least we showed our car before it went on track, unlike others!” noted Norris' team mate Oscar Piastri in a barbed reference to Red Bull's decision to run a shakedown of the RB20 a day before the official car launch event.

Last year McLaren got off to a terrible start to the season, but upgrades from Austria onwards saw the MCL60 become one of the best cars on the grid and the closest rival to Red Bull.

This year McLaren is hoping to maintain that momentum and get off to a quick start, which means holding back the details of some of their off-season development work for as long as possible so as not to tip off their rivals.

Not that Stella is expecting any major differences in car design this season, with the technical rules and regulations unchanged since 2022 ensuring that most car designs are starting to get closer together.

Lando Norris - McLaren launch event 2024 © McLaren

© McLaren

"I wouldn't be prepared for anything too shocking," he said. "Based on what we have seen in the early photographs of the cars [from all teams], the microscopic shapes seem to be starting to converge.

“At the same time, a lot of the performance is actually in the details and in the millimetre game, so the fact that the cars start to look similar [doesn't necessarily mean] performance will also converge.

“But certainly this could be a first important factor, so I would expect some of these convergences," he added, insisting that the photos of the new McLaren released so far remained "pretty accurate" for all the team's precautions.

The car will join those of the other teams out on track in Bahrain later this week for the official three-day pre-season test session, a week before the first Grand Prix of the year gets underway at the same venue.

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