Why McLaren’s next upgrades could kick-start 2024 charge

McLaren will eagerly await the impact of their upcoming Miami upgrade package.

McLaren is introducing their first major upgrade package of 2024 in Miami. Team principal Andrea Stella oversaw a resurgence last year, with the Woking-based team making immense progress mid-season. A hyper-effective development plan saw McLaren go from the midfield to the very front of F1. Podium finishes were now regular occurrences, with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri claiming their fair share of silverware.

That said, it is important to pinpoint exactly what caused the British outfit’s 2023 mid-season charge. Ironically, the team’s failure to meet its targets over the winter break created such a steep trajectory during the summer. By bringing components originally planned for the start of the campaign, McLaren began to unleash their potential.

Whilst this rapid progress was a huge boost for Woking, it was not all good news. Lando Norris outlined that missing development milestones over the winter is not a habit the team should develop. Starting the season strong, emphasised the 24-year-old, is the only way to win in Formula 1.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren F1 Team, in his cockpit

“Noticeable” progress expected from Miami upgrades

Bearing this in mind, McLaren is certainly in a better position in 2024 compared to twelve months ago. The papaya squad has been the third-fastest team to start the year, even surprising Ferrari as Red Bull’s closest challenger in Shanghai.

Of course, the deficit to Max Verstappen and the RB20 is still substantial. Therefore, a significant step forward is necessary for McLaren to challenge the Dutchman for race victories. However, this leap forward is not guaranteed.

Andrea Stella has downplayed the impact of this weekend’s MCL38 updates. He argued they would produce a “noticeable” impact, though nothing as dramatic as the gains unlocked twelve months ago.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38

McLaren potentially a dark horse

Still, it must be remembered that in June of 2023 (before McLaren’s Austria upgrades arrived), the Italian team principal stated only “a few tenths” would be unlocked from the package. As we now know, the updates delivered significantly more pace than this. As such, McLaren cannot be taken at face value when discussing the impact of their updates.

Looking from the outside, there are reasons to be optimistic about a substantial surge forward. From Abu Dhabi 2023 to Bahrain 2024, the British outfit made notable, though far from transformative, changes to the MCL38. Partly due to last year’s development push, their current car is something of a ‘b-spec’ version of its predecessor.

The team’s first developments will be introduced in Miami, and they are certainly not ‘minor’. Although the team dismisses forecasts of a huge increase in performance, they are certainly a wild card this weekend.

Provided they can avoid the pitfalls of a Sprint weekend, McLaren is capable of creating an upset. Should their correlation continue to prove reliable, the Papaya team could give Red Bull and Ferrari something to think about.

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