McLaren team principal Andrea Stella says the impressive rate of development that the team showed last season has been continuing during the winter.
The 2023 launch car was always spoken about with reservations, but McLaren stated it knew where it was lacking and would be delivering improvements by midseason. After a stunning turnaround in form that saw multiple podiums, a sprint victory in Qatar and a recovery to fourth in the constructors’ championship last year, Stella says the 2024 car continues to follow the same trajectory.
“So far I have to say we don’t see the diminishing returns,” Stella said. “This obviously will have to be proven once we put the car on the ground, but when it comes to the wind tunnel development or CFD development we see that the gradient we established last year that led to the Austria development and then the Singapore development it seems we can maintain it.
“That’s where I would expect the launch car to be at the start of the season, and in the ground we are already starting to work on the farther developments that we hope to bring relatively soon in-season and they also seem to be quite interesting. So I would say in terms of the regulations themselves and the development we are having specifically at McLaren it seems like the kind of linear gradient of development can be maintained.”
Stella says he has confidence in the continuation of McLaren’s personal performance improvements.
“For me in particular this started last year; definitely it’s important we put the team in condition and capacity to keep generating new ideas,” he said. “It could be there’s some areas of the car you realize maybe the investment here is not worthwhile, but so far, we have not found it.
“You look at the car — suspension, tires, aerodynamics — they all still have quite a lot to offer in these generation of regulations, so what we are looking at very carefully is to make sure we’re in condition to cash in these performance opportunities that do seem to be available.
“This is reflected in numbers, so we can’t fool ourselves — we need to see these numbers go up. Right now it’s what we seem to be finding in development, but it’s a slightly different story when it comes to competitiveness on track, as this depends on what the opposition has done.”
Red Bull is the obvious benchmark of that opposition, but Stella says measuring progress against the world champions is challenging because he expects a big step forward given the lack of development on last year’s RB19.
“When we think specifically about Red Bull, there’s one element that obviously I think puts everyone in doubt as to what’s going to happen in 2024 and it’s the fact they haven’t developed their car very much,” Stella said. “So have they cashed in, accumulated development that they will capitalize onto next year’s car? This is my theory — I can’t think that Red Bull were not in a condition to develop their car, they [just] might have decided not to deliver upgrades.
“It might be that their gradient kept going, so I would say Red Bull should be extremely competitive. We will see where we are, what kind of challenge we will be able to set on track. For us, it’s important to see that we are doing a good job on our own performance development and we are confident that if we keep doing this, over time, we have an opportunity to close the gap. That’s our vision for the future.”