McLaren team principal Andrea Stella is confident in sustaining the positive trajectory of car development that propelled the team to a remarkable performance in the second half of the 2023 F1 campaign.
Approaching the third season under the ground-effect aerodynamic regulations implemented in 2022, there was an anticipation of diminishing potential gains and a narrowing of performance gaps throughout the field.
In the previous season, McLaren, after a candid evaluation during the winter, acknowledged a lag in the development of its MCL60. The team revealed its true potential only at the Austrian Grand Prix, following a substantial upgrade.
Further significant updates were introduced in Singapore, and the synergy between the two packages enabled McLaren to contend for podium finishes, securing a commendable fourth place in the constructors’ standings.
Upon unveiling the livery for the MCL38, scheduled for an official launch on February 14, Stella emphasized that he and his team “don’t see any diminishing returns”, instilling confidence that it can once more contend at the forefront of the grid.
Stella is aware that the figures observed thus far will only “be proven once we put the car on the ground”, but he added: “When it comes to the wind tunnel development, CFD development, we see that the gradient we established last year, that led to the Austria, and then the Singapore development, it seems like we can maintain it”
“That’s where I would expect the launch car to be at the start of the season.
“In the background, we are already starting to work on further developments that we hope to bring relatively soon in season, and they also seem to be quite interesting.
“So, I would say in terms of the regulations themselves, and in terms of the development we are aiming for specifically here at McLaren, we are seeing the kind of linear gradient of development that can be maintained.”
In contrast to the previous year, Stella acknowledges that the current preparations of his team “has been relatively smooth” and they are “on plan”, albeit still “pushing everything to the limit last minute”.
The progress in developing the MCL38 has been facilitated by McLaren’s in-house wind tunnel, operational since the middle of the previous year, along with the utilization of the simulator.
Stella said “It’s been interesting because we have been integrating the new infrastructure that we delivered in 2023”.
“So the MCL38 has been developed entirely at the MTC wind tunnel, certainly from September onwards, and in the new simulator, while composite and metallic parts are being produced in the new manufacturing infrastructure facilities.
“So that’s a really exciting element heading into the 2024 season.”
Furthermore, McLaren bolstered its team by recruiting Rob Marshall from Red Bull as the Technical Director of Engineering and Design, and David Sanchez, who joined from Ferrari, now serves as the Technical Director of Car Concept and Performance.
Anticipating that the effects of their appointments will resonate throughout the year, Stella replied: “Hopefully, all these ingredients will participate in making our team more competitive, and deliver a better car than last year’s.”
Stella, who assumed the role of team principal just 13 months ago after Andreas Seidl’s departure to Sauber as Group CEO, approaches the new season with a sense of tranquility compared to a year ago. This calmness is attributed to the overall advancements made with the MCL38.
Stella expressed a growing overall sense of confidence saying “This time last year, we could see the numbers that we could quantify quite well from an aerodynamic point of view when it comes to efficiency and downforce drag, had a period of plateauing.”
“From a conceptual point of view, we needed to change the direction as such that we could recover this momentum in terms of development.
“This year we haven’t experienced this kind of plateauing in the development tracker and gradient.
“At the same time, from a conceptual point of view, we have seen the concepts we had in establishing last year’s car have quite a lot more to offer, just in incremental gains that you can cash in.
“Also, some new ideas have popped out in the technical department, which is the foundation for the upgrades that we will see in season, and some of them, I would expect to be relatively early in the season.
“So (it is) a completely different scenario (to a year ago), not only in terms of subjective perception, if you want, of the organization, but I would say, even from a numerical point of view where we see decent progress.”