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McLaren predict “another 12 months” before all weak points fixed

Andrea Stella is pleased with the trajectory of development at Woking. The last twelve months have seen his personnel propel themselves from the back of the field to regular podiums. McLaren’s trajectory is largely thanks to highly accurate correlation between their factory simulation data and the track itself. However, there are still limitations that could take some time to fully rectify.

The Woking-based team can be tentatively confident of their status as the third-fastest team. The first rounds of 2024 indicate the MCL38 is more consistent than the AMR24 and W15 cars.

Alongside this, McLaren’s latest challenger enjoys higher peaks in performance than its fellow Mercedes-powered teams. The MCL38’s high-speed performance should be showcased this weekend in Suzuka, although this strength was already apparent in Jeddah’s first sector. In the 2023 edition of the Japanese Grand Prix, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri were Max Verstappen’s closest challengers – culminating in a double podium finish.

Sitting third in the constructors’ standings, this Sunday’s 53-lap race is a chance for McLaren to prove they can be genuine contenders in their strong circuits. The team’s relatively ineffective DRS will be far less impactful than it was at the Australian GP. This will be welcome news for Norris and Piastri, who will surely be in the mix in qualifying.

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Still work to do at McLaren

However, Andrea Stella’s team must strive to perform regardless of circuit configuration. Only by eliminating their deficiencies can they realistically challenge for race victories. Aware of this, the McLaren boss outlined a realistic timeline for all vulnerabilities to be ironed out:

“We are extremely happy with the pace have maintained on development over the last twelve months,” it.motorsport quotes him as saying.

“But I would say we need another twelve months of development to make a car that is strong in terms of DRS efficiency and in long corners.”

Of course, this forecast is not a prophecy for how McLaren will progress in the next year. The 2023 campaign proved how teams can surpass even their own expectations with a rigorous mid-season updates programme.

Still, the former Ferrari engineer is correct to manage expectations. There is little to gain and plenty to lose from making bold statements about future performance. Elsewhere in the pitlane, Mercedes have become painfully aware of this predicament.

Returning to McLaren, they can be satisfied with their baseline. Without making drastic changes to the car that finished last season in Abu Dhabi, they are firmly at the front. The next task is to demonstrate the same relentlessnes that saw them surge up the field last season.

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