Since the summer, McLaren has firmly established itself as Red Bull‘s main competitor, thanks to the introduction of highly beneficial updates to its MCL60 since Austria. This performance improvement has been primarily driven by the renewed technical focus under team boss Andrea Stella.
As a result of this resurgence, drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have scored five and two podium finishes, respectively, in the six previous races. Teams traditionally demonstrating strong form, such as Ferrari and Mercedes, have not matched McLaren‘s consistent progress. This has led pundits and fans to speculate whether McLaren can challenge Verstappen and Red Bull in 2024.
In response to the speculations, Norris stated, “Maybe. I’ve just been saying to Max, since we brought this upgrade to Austria, I’ve been the second highest scoring driver on the grid. I think we’ve been the second highest scoring team, potentially.” He added, “Of course, we’ve made significant strides forward. However, taking on Red Bull, considering the team’s prestige, is an encouraging indicator of our progress this year.”
Norris also hinted at the team’s optimism for 2024. He said, “We’re discussing challenging one of F1‘s greatest drivers, who is in a commanding position. The discussion alone, considering our position in Bahrain, is a promising sign for us. We anticipate further improvements next year, which makes me excited.”
McLaren‘s case for taking on Red Bull is strengthened by its new wind tunnel, active since July, and other state-of-the-art facilities. However, most of the team’s new recruits, like Red Bull‘s Rob Marshall, joining their ranks will likely not impact the 2024 car due to their late arrival.
A potential hurdle for McLaren‘s pursuit could be Red Bull‘s considerable advantage in 2023, enabling it to focus most of its resources on next year’s development, setting itself apart from its competition.
Stella, however, emphasizes that McLaren‘s progress in 2023 provides a robust foundation for the upcoming year. He stated, “Where you are with next year’s car partly depends on where you are this year, because that’s the starting point for everyone.” He further added that the development progress over six to seven months is crucial. His views suggest the pivotal role of the team’s ongoing aerodynamic and mechanical development, underscoring their importance over the final results of the season.