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McLaren

F1 mid-season review: McLaren disrupts the fun

McLaren's turnaround in 2023 has been remarkable as the team finally shows signs of awakening.

Norris Silverstone
Article
To news overview © XPBimages

Up to the Canadian Grand Prix in June, 2023 had been a poor showing from McLaren with just 17 points on the board, a massive restructuring of the technical department and a whole lot of questions beginning to bubble around its lead driver.

But the team had expected this - admitting during the launch of the MCL60 in February that a late development switch had meant the car being launched was far from what was intended, but that Lando Norris and rookie Oscar Piastri would just have to muddle through until upgrades arrived.

The car did not perform well in slow-speed corners or in hot races, with Bahrain and Miami particularly galling with the opener being ruined by an electrics problem for Piastri and a pneumatic pressure leak for Norris that required constant refilling.

The sixth and eighth places picked up in Melbourne was fortunate thanks to the final lap carnage at Albert Park, giving McLaren 12 of those 17 points. Without that result, the team would have headed to Austria, where the first parts of the huge package were applied, with just five points to its name.

Norris took fourth at the Red Bull Ring with caution being the name of the game as to the effect of the upgrades, as both team and driver have been historically strong in Austria.

But the lid could not be kept on much longer after a stunning British Grand Prix weekend where Norris and Piastri took second and third on the grid with the Australian only missing out on finishing there in the race thanks to Lewis Hamilton getting lucky with the Safety Car timing.

This was backed up again in Hungary, a circuit Norris downplayed hopes for, with another run to second for Norris as Piastri struggled after an early bright start, but still took fifth.

The team was caught out at Spa with its high-downforce rear-wing and the lack of a low-downforce option in the dry conditions for the race, although Piastri did take his first 'podium' by finishing second in the Sprint.

This upgrade by the Woking team has propelled it back into the leading fight that had pulled away from McLaren, leaving them behind as the deckchairs at the MTC were rearranged.

But it finally seems now that the band is playing in harmony and hitting all the right notes. With the new infrastructure coming online, McLaren appears to finally be walking the walk.

Lando Norris

Mercedes and Red Bull would have been rubbing their hands with glee at McLaren's struggles in the early part of the season, with Norris's sixth in Melbourne the best he could manage until Austria.

The British-Belgian racer is an ideal candidate to slot into either of the top two teams when a vacancy arises, with Red Bull particular admirers.

But Norris is a 'McLaren driver.' He's been groomed through the junior ranks and is essentially 'the project', in the same way Lewis Hamilton was all those years ago or Max Verstappen is at Red Bull.

A clumsy mistake by clipping the inside wall at Turn 27 in Saudi Arabia Qualifying docks him marks for the pre-upgrade chunk of the season during which he finished P17 four times in seven races.

Since Austria, only Verstappen and Sergio Perez have scored more points than Norris with the run to second in Hungary being his strongest result, even more so than Britain, owing to the fact that expectations were not high for Budapest.

Norris is only 23 points behind Carlos Sainz in eighth place in the standings with a substantially faster package than the Ferrari.

His goals for the rest of the season will be to make a nuisance of himself and drag McLaren closer to fourth in the Constructors'.


			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

Oscar Piastri

Piastri is one of the most talented rookies to break into F1 in recent years, with the circumstances around his move from Alpine, replacing Daniel Ricciardo thrusting him into the spotlight.

But he has delivered all that could be expected from him, and more.

The Melbourne-native did well to pick up a point in the chaos of Monaco, with the Spanish and Austrian Grands Prix firmly being lodged as 'learning experiences' after difficult weekends.

That first podium was snatched away at Silverstone through no fault of his own while he fronted up and admitted that he needed to work on looking after the tyres after dropping down the field in the heat of Hungary.

Piastri doesn't shy away and owns his mistakes or own shortcomings - and is a definite upgrade on the broken Ricciardo of late 2022.

Second on the Sprint grid in Belgium was a stunning result, although trying to do one on Verstappen at the restart was naive. You need to get up pretty early to pull a fast one on Verstappen.

But it is all part of the learning process for Piastri who has more than been a match for Norris.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

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