Lando Norris is very pleased with the progress at McLaren this year, revealing his optimism about the team’s chances for 2024.
Norris secured a fifth podium in six races for McLaren, continuing his phenomenal run of form. Since McLaren introduced their upgrades in Austria, they have been consistent podium contenders. Amidst the fluctuations of rivals, the Woking-based team is the closest threat to the dominance of Red Bull and Max Verstappen.
Given where they began the season, this is a brilliant achievement. Adrian Newey’s technical team still have a buffer over the rest of the field, but the gap is diminishing. To some degree, Red Bull’s limited wind tunnel time made this an inevitability. The plan at Milton Keynes was always to sacrifice some of this year’s development to focus on 2024.
Still, this doesn’t take away from McLaren’s trajectory. Race victories still elude them, but they are within striking distance for next season. Oscar Piastri’s rapid development also means the British outfit will have a formidable driver pairing.
These elements are all important, but Andrea Stella’s outfit is a threat for another critical reason. In stark contrast to numerous teams on the F1 grid, their upgrades have consistently delivered. Every update has worked as designed and – in some cases – exceeded expectations.
Having completed the transition to their new wind tunnel, next year’s package will also benefit from the latest investment at Woking. With all this in mind, ‘Team Papaya’ is a force to be reckoned with.
Speaking after the Brazilian GP, Lando Norris outlined his belief in McLaren for 2024:
“Since we bought this upgrade to Austria, I’ve been the second-highest-scoring driver on the grid… Considering we’re talking about fighting the Red Bull, I think it’s still a very, very good thing – what we’ve achieved this year.”
“To go from where we were in Bahrain to getting close and talking about fighting a Red Bull, I think, are very good signs for us.
“And we know we still have plenty more things to come next year. So I’m excited. Having that as a thought, it’s quite a faraway thought.
“I don’t want to think of that just now. There’s no point thinking of it until next year, but I’ll be optimistic, and I believe we can do it as a team.”
It should be noted that nothing is guaranteed for 2024. Of course, McLaren has all the momentum heading into the winter break – and every reason to succeed. However, the tricky nature of these F1 cars cannot be underestimated.
Just in the last two weeks, Aston Martin went from backmarkers to podium finishers. Mercedes, meanwhile, went from podium finishers to a mediocre force in the midfield.
Andrea Stella is a team principal whose track record, so far, inspires nothing but confidence. However, it is imperative McLaren strike whilst the iron is hot and become a legitimate challenger to Red Bull.