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McLaren “significantly faster” in Miami than Red Bull

McLaren shocked the F1 grid with a series of ultra-effective upgrades introduced to the MCL38 at the Miami GP.

Red Bull’s dominance in 2024 was seen as a forgone conclusion by many observers after Bahrain. Max Verstappen stamped his authority on this year’s campaign with the RB20 in the opening two rounds, seemingly sustaining his results from last year. Carlos Sainz and Ferrari changed the script by claiming victory in Australia, ratifying much of the pre-season excitement surrounding the Scuderia. Despite this, it was arguably McLaren who dealt a more costly blow to Red Bull in Miami.

Lando Norris ran with a series of upgrades to the MCL38, which were effective from practice 1. A failure to get into the correct temperature window in qualifying proved the British team’s main limitation. Overall performance, even with a series of updates that were unlikely optimised in such a limited time frame, was enough to match and even outperform Red Bull.

Senior advisor Helmut Marko even admitted to McLaren’s superiority in Florida:

“McLaren was already significantly faster than us in the first practice session on Friday,” he wrote in his SPEEDWEEK column.

“So it wasn’t a big surprise that Lando Norris was our main opponent in Miami.

“It was already clear then that we couldn’t keep up with McLaren’s pace.”

MIAMI, FLORIDA – MAY 05: Race winner Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren, Second placed Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Third placed Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari celebrate on the podium after the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at Miami International Autodrome on May 05, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202405060035 // Usage for editorial use only //

Carrying momentum into Imola

For Andrea Stella and his technical team, the challenge is maintaining their strong form. Oscar Piastri will have the full benefit of the team’s upgrades this weekend, which should prevent the Australian with an additional two-tenths per lap.

This puts McLaren in a very strong position. Perhaps the most relevant development regarding McLaren’s upgrades was how they addressed the MCL38’s weaknesses. Norris and Piastri were no longer sitting ducks on the straight, enjoying a machine that produced far less drag and, therefore, much more speed in a straight line.

Eliminating this weakness made overtaking far easier for the Woking-based team. It also made them less vulnerable when they were on the defensive – in addition to generating more overall lap time.

There are still areas for McLaren to improve. Andrea Stella has emphasised that Red Bull weren’t at their best at round six. Caution, therefore, should be exercised.

Regardless, the British team are now firmly at the front. Executing clean weekends and avoiding unforced errors should be enough for them to become genuine contenders for race victories. Of course, they will be working on producing more upgrades – as they await the impact of Ferrari’s new package.

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