The opening weeks of the 2023 Formula 1 campaign were worrying times for McLaren who appeared to be conceded to competing at the back of the field.
The first danger signs came at the launch of the car when then-Technical Director James Key admitted that it had missed performance targets with its challenger.
Fielding Lando Norris for his fifth season in F1 alongside highly anticipated rookie Oscar Piastri, the MCL60 was slow and uncompetitive and shortly after the start of the campaign, Key departed McLaren as a new structure was announced.
The changes set in motion a turnaround for McLaren who scored a handful of points in the opening rounds before a substantial upgrade in Austria turned its performance around.
The Woking-based squad was immediately catapulted up the pecking order in the two rounds that followed the Austria upgrade, with Norris securing back-to-back podium results.
Its fine form would continue until the end of the campaign and it ended the year with nine podiums in total with two going the way of rookie Piastri.
Norris described McLaren’s turnaround as the biggest from any team within the last 10 years, which has sparked hope that it can be a consistent front-runner after mixing it up with the traditional top teams on a number of occasions this year.
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Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri
One of McLaren’s biggest advantages is the undeniable strength of its driver line-up. With Norris seen as one of the best on the field and Piastri showcasing this year that he is a star in the making, combined they are a tool that can take the team a long way.
Norris starred for McLaren this year and was the stronger performer out of the duo. However Piastri was coming off the back of a year on the sidelines and was forced to adjust, as all rookies do, to the competitive demands of F1.
Norris ended both the qualifying head-to-head 15-7 and the race battle 17-5, concluding the year 108 points ahead in the Drivers’ Championship.
When the car was quick, Norris was almost sure to deliver. He ended the season with seven podiums but is still awaiting an elusive maiden victory that feels certain to arrive going forward.
Amid his run of high-ranking performances, the Briton was placed under pressure by Piastri at times, experiencing an intra-team battle experience that was lacking in previous years.
The mistakes that you would normally expect from a rookie were barely seen from Piastri as the Australian took everything in his stride - including a titanic performance in Qatar that saw him take the sprint pole position, sprint win and second place in the Grand Prix.
His performances impressed McLaren so much that the team wasted no time in extending him until the end of the 2026 season.
Norris and Piastri form one of the most favourable line-ups on the grid and if McLaren continues to deliver performance, its drivers can no doubt take it to new heights.
Stella highlights importance of restructure
McLaren’s major restructure at the start of the year saw Andrea Stella move into the Team Principal role, with Rob Marshall and David Sanchez recruited from Red Bull and Ferrari respectively.
Despite the latter two only beginning their work at McLaren this coming January, Stella has stated that the senior changes were pivotal to the season turnaround.
"The technical restructuring was a fundamental enabler,” he said. “The restructuring itself includes people that actually haven't started yet.
"If we talk about the new technical configuration, which includes three technical directors, two of them haven't started yet.
“It was Peter Prodromou in charge of aero, David Sanchez in charge of performance and concepts, Rob Marshall in charge of engineering and design.
"Effectively, this structure has given clarity on the responsibilities and has allowed also - and it was essential in the short term - to restructure the aerodynamic department, putting Peter Prodromou in charge, supporting Giuseppe Pesce.
“These guys have been absolutely instrumental in setting the new direction for the design of the car from an aerodynamic point of view. This has been the enabler to use the talent that was already available at McLaren.”
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