McLaren relying on development to catch 'not too far ahead' Ferrari

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McLaren team principal Andrea Stella is confident that team papaya can bridge the gap to Ferrari in the coming months thanks to the outfit’s development capabilities.

While McLaren has only claimed a single podium so far this year, courtesy of Lando Norris in Australia, the Woking-based outfit is currently positioned as the third best team on the grid.

Behind the dominant Red Bull squad, Ferrari has scored a podium at every event so far, including a 1-2 finish in Melbourne where Carlos Sainz claimed his third career win in Formula 1 after a flawless drive at Albert Park.

The Scuderia also outpaced its McLaren rival in Japan last weekend where Sainz and Charles Leclerc finished third and fourth while Norris and teammate Oscar Piastri concluded their race respectively P5 and P8.

Despite his team’s underperformance relative to Ferrari at Suzuka, Stella is convinced that McLaren can chase down its Italian rival in the upcoming races by relying on a steady and solid development programme.

“Today, it looks like we lost this battle, but we are working hard so that we will be equipped in the near future to be more competitive,” Stella told the F1 Nation podcast.

“I would say Ferrari, definitely, they are not far ahead.

“I think it will be definitely a battle of development this year because these cars still offer quite a lot of performance through development. I would say this is the main objective for us.


“It’s good to see that it’s just a few tenths that they are better than us. In a track like this, where you have high degradation, easy overtaking to some extent, then it’s difficult to keep faster cars behind, even if we have had a very strong qualifying.

“This means that the cars pretty much finished in the competitiveness order.”

Stella says that McLaren launched its race in Japan targeting a spot on the podium. But it missed out on that objective due to Ferrari’s superior pace

“Our expectations were definitely that we could have finished on the podium,” the Italian explained.

“We did try to finish on the podium because we stopped early with Lando to make sure that we retained the track position, but ultimately we didn’t have enough pace to retain the track position – especially Carlos, he could stay out, gain some laps on his tyres and then he could go through Lando and overtake with no problems.

“We were hoping for a podium, ultimately we discovered in the race that it wasn’t possible, but like I say, it’s not far. Hopefully soon we will have some developments that will make this much more possible.

“We should have a good round of developments in Miami. Even if it’s a Sprint event, we will definitely attempt to deploy them. Then we should have at least one, if not two, more rounds of development over this season.”

McLaren’s results this year stand in stark contrast to 2023, when the team only had 14 points to its name after four races while it currently sits third in F1’s Constructors’ standings with a healthy haul of 69 points.

Such a dramatic improvement highlights the team's incredible transformation. While future race wins are a possibility, Stella acknowledges the need to focus on the present and solidify his team’s position in the pecking order.

“The first part of the message we deliver internally is that it’s an important result for us to consolidate McLaren as the third-best team at this stage of the season, because it confirms the trajectory that we started 12 months ago, and this shouldn’t be given for granted,” Stella explained.

“This is the first positive. Definitely, we look ahead. Definitely, we look at the fact that Ferrari is not far, it’s definitely within the reach of our development capability.

“Therefore, we are fully determined to deliver enough performance on the car to go and attack Ferrari for second place.

“Then, if we deliver the same kind of developments we delivered last race, then why not think about winning races this year.

“I don’t want to look arrogant, but I think this is within the numbers, within the facts, and definitely this is the mindset that everyone has at McLaren. We will work hard to make this happen.”

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