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McLaren’s F1 upgrade plan impacted by new ‘race against time’

by Josh Suttill
5 min read

McLaren is facing another “race against time” to have the second part of its significant Formula 1 upgrade ready in time for both cars at this weekend’s British Grand Prix.

The team’s initial plan was to introduce 50% of its upgrade at the Austrian GP with a further 25% appearing at Silverstone and the final 25% being added at the Hungarian GP two weeks later.

Lando Norris received the first 50% at the Red Bull Ring and used the parts to great effect – qualifying and finishing in fourth place, ahead of the Aston Martins and Mercedes.

But the team had been in a race against time to introduce the upgrades at the Austrian GP so Norris’s team-mate Oscar Piastri still had the older-spec McLaren. Piastri’s weekend fell apart with a critical track limits deletion in qualifying and a broken front wing after clipping the rear of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas that was checking-up to avoid an incident in front. He finished 16th.

Now McLaren is facing a similar potential spec split between its two cars heading into the British GP, although it’s still targeting having 75% of the upgrade on both cars.

“So it will again depend on the race against time to deliver parts trackside,” team principal Andrea Stella explained.

“All parts are in the final sprint in terms of being manufactured and made available to the track.

“So as they come available they will be delivered trackside and then based on what and how many parts we have we will decide allocation.

“But this is effectively like work in progress. I hope we have enough parts but we will see.”

In Britain Piastri will at the very least have the first 50% of the upgrade that was added to Norris’s car in Austria.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Austrian Grand Prix Sprint Day Spielberg, Austria

“What Lando had here is quite under control in terms of delivering it for both cars in Silverstone,” Stella explained when asked by The Race on Sunday.

“The race against the time is the further upgrades and we need to see in terms of quantity, how many will be in condition to have for Silverstone because ideally in a race weekend you’d like to have at least three parts [sets] so you can allocate one per car and a spare.

“If you have one, you sort of don’t leave it in the garage, you put it on the car, then you try to deal with that.”

If there’s only one set (or two sets of upgrades) it’s likely Norris will once again take priority in receiving them as McLaren’s more experienced driver as well as being the lead driver in the points.

The plan beyond Silverstone

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Spielberg, Austria

The plan for the introduction of the final 25% of the upgrade also appears to have changed from it all coming at the Hungaroring later in July to “the rest will come across a few races but really as smaller items”.

The upgrades brought to Austria and Britain were more “conceptual” in the way they were adjusting the MCL60’s design philosophy, whereas the remaining 25% is “more kind of a regular upgrade”.

Stella also said “another couple of steps of this size” are necessary before McLaren has an optimal car for these aerodynamic regulations.

No date has been set for the introduction of the next significant package but it will likely be following the summer break shutdown or it will be incorporated into the 2024 McLaren.

“We are working, this is a work in progress, we will see how we end up in development,” Stella added.

“We are working to develop and deliver another similar upgrade after the [summer] shutdown.

“But this is a work in progress. This one we knew was coming, it was a clear objective. That one will depend if we’re in a condition to say ‘yeah it’s working, let’s press the green button’ or we just leave it for next year’s car. We’ll see.”

The ‘change of gear’ in effectiveness

Lando Norris, Mclaren Mcl60, Leaves His Pit Box

Stella was also quick to praise the revised technical organisation at McLaren – which has included the departure of technical director James Key and the signing of Ferrari engineer David Sanchez and Red Bull’s Rob Marshall.

Neither Sanchez nor Marshall will start working with McLaren until next year but the team has already made many organisational changes ahead of their arrival that have made a difference – including declining to directly replace Key and instead splitting his responsibilities amongst three senior individuals.

“Certainly there’s been quite a lot of reorganisation at McLaren,” Stella said.

“Even though this process is still ongoing when it comes to the reorganisation of the technical area and overall the aerodynamic department, there’s been a change of gear like the effectiveness, the conceptual lead thanks to having appointed Peter Prodromou [technical director on the aerodynamics side] and in general the capacity to generate ideas and develop them seems quite invigorated.

“We see this in the development rate that you can measure, what is called in Formula 1 teams the aerodynamic tracker, it does seem to have taken a good gradient upwards.

“So I would say it’s mainly the result of the evolution of the team that we have kicked off a few months ago.”

That’s particularly important in the cost cap era where the days of F1 teams throwing endless developments at the car and seeing what works are well gone. Choosing the right upgrade paths to pursue is more crucial than ever.

The mistakes McLaren made with its initial 2023 design are evidence of that.

It now hopes the potential success of its upgrade can show it’s learned from those errors – whenever more of the package makes it to the track on one or both cars.

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