McLaren confident they can keep improving in 2024

McLaren’s preparations for the 2024 Formula One season are going to plan with the team confident they can continue last year’s impressive performance gains, according to principal Andrea Stella.

Published : Jan 16, 2024 23:01 IST , WOKING, England - 4 MINS READ

McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella.
McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

McLaren’s preparations for the 2024 Formula One season are going to plan with the team confident they can continue last year’s impressive performance gains, according to principal Andrea Stella.

The former champions were fourth overall last year after a slow start to the campaign, with Britain’s Lando Norris and Australian rookie Oscar Piastri increasingly challenging the dominant Red Bulls.

A new wind tunnel and racecar simulator are now in use at the Woking factory while Rob Marshall and David Sanchez have joined from Red Bull and Ferrari respectively in senior technical roles.

“The preparation so far has been relatively smooth. Smooth in the Formula One sense, which means pushing everything last minute, to the limit. But so far we are on plan,” Stella told reporters at a livery presentation.

“So far we don’t see diminishing returns,” added the Italian.

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“This obviously will have to be proven once we put the car on the ground, but when it comes to the wind tunnel development of this year...(it) seems like we can maintain it.

“We are already starting to work on the further developments that we hope to bring relatively soon in-season and they also seem to be quite interesting.”

The season starts in Bahrain on March 2 after testing from Feb. 21-23 and Red Bull will again be the clear favourites, with Max Verstappen chasing his fourth world championship in succession.

Stella cautioned that while confident about the rate of progress, much depended on how much Red Bull had improved their car after the most dominant season on record with 21 wins in 22 races.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown recognised it could be an “unpleasant surprise” when Red Bull showed their true hand.

“I would say Red Bull should be extremely competitive and we will see where we are, what kind of challenge we will be able to set on track,” said Stella.

“For us, it’s important that we see we are doing a good job out of our own performance development and we are confident that if we keep doing this, over time we have an opportunity to close the gap.”

Norris, 24, will be starting his sixth season in Formula One still chasing a first win but boosted by seven podium finishes last year including six second places.

“When Lando wins his first race it will be a beautiful moment. He is ready for that. It’s more about us being ready and delivering that car that allows him to take the opportunities,” said Stella.

“Hopefully we will have the opportunity in 2024.”

McLaren want Norris and Piastri for the long-term

 McLaren see Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri as their long-term driver pairing in Formula One and believe they can convince the Briton to stay beyond next year, according to the team’s chief executive Zak Brown.

Norris, 24, is set to start his sixth season with McLaren while Australian Piastri, 22, had a strong debut last year after a legal tussle for his services with Renault-owned Alpine in 2022.

Champions Red Bull have made no secret of their interest in Norris, whose contract at McLaren expires at the end of 2025 with the sport entering a new engine era and general reset in 2026.

“We have Lando under contract for another couple of years, of course we are in dialogue with him on a continuous basis,” Brown told reporters at a livery launch at the team’s Woking headquarters.

“We’re very focused now here obviously on the short term, but 2026 is not far away and we recognise that being able to retain Lando and Oscar for the foreseeable future is definitely a key element and something that is a high priority for us.”

Piastri has a contract to the end of 2026.

Brown said his approach was to take care of all his employees, sponsors and drivers so that they wanted to be part of McLaren.

“I tend to focus on making sure McLaren’s the best environment and people want to be with us because you ultimately cannot control external approaches to those various people,” he explained.

“I’m very confident in the relationship that we have with Lando, I know he’s very excited for this year and was very impressed with what he saw in the second half of last year.

“He loves working with (team principal) Andrea (Stella) and everyone on the team, so all we need to keep doing is keep giving him the environment that he wants to be in and then I’m confident he’ll stick around.”

Stella said Norris, who had six second places and a third last year and now jointly holds the record for most podiums without a win (13), brought a lot to the team.

“The relationship between Lando and Oscar I think is a point of strength for our team,” he said. “The two have almost complimentary driver characteristics from a driving and technical point of view.

“For Lando it’s almost unexplored as to how good he is, sometimes he surprises us with some of the performances he can put together.”

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