McLaren driver Lando Norris achieved his best qualifying result of the 2023 season so far by coming third in the Barcelona race, behind pole-winner Max Verstappen and Spanish driver Carlos Sainz. Norris was shocked by his success and admitted that he had thought “it was going to be tough to get out of Q1”. However, he explained that the high-speed corners on the Barcelona layout played to McLaren’s strengths, as the team has “always been strong” in that area. Norris also highlighted that the team still needs to make big improvements in low-speed corners.
The MCL60 car has had a difficult start to the season, falling short of McLaren’s expectations in aerodynamic efficiency and having a draggier package and an underdeveloped floor compared to rivals. However, the larger aero surfaces on the car can generate peak downforce, which is advantageous on tracks with long corners like Barcelona. McLaren team principal Stella revealed that the MCL60 had initially struggled with long corners but has regained its confidence in this area since its latest update.
The Barcelona track also appears to suit the MCL60‘s ability to warm up Pirelli’s 2023 C3 tyre, which is the softest available this weekend. The pre-qualifying rain and cloud cover brought low temperatures to the track, but this turned out to be beneficial to McLaren due to their tyre warming capabilities. The smooth surface of the Barcelona track enabled McLaren to run lower ride heights than at other races on the calendar, which delivered good aerodynamic load.
Stella remained cautious regarding Norris’s chances in the race, despite qualifying performance. He acknowledged that the main benefit of having such a level of grip only happens on new tyres being used for a single qualifying lap. There is also a prediction of a two-stop race due to the demands placed on left-side tyres, leading to the risk of McLaren eating through its tyres quickly in race conditions on high fuel. However, Stella hopes to confirm two cars in the points and remains optimistic about the McLaren team’s abilities.