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McLaren to make 'proper assessment' after Saudi Arabia

McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella believes Ferrari and Mercedes are catchable, but that they'll take a real look at the pecking order after this weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Andrea Stella
To news overview © XPBimages

Mercedes and Ferrari are "within reach" for McLaren following last weekend's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix., according to Team Principal Andrea Stella.

Despite some concerns during pre-season testing ahead of the event, McLaren enjoyed a semi-successful start to the 2024 campaign.

Both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri progressed into Q3 with relative ease, with both drivers having then scored points in the first race of the season. Norris finished sixth and found himself in a Mercedes sandwich, whereas Piastri was outside the sandwich in P8.

The Woking-based team was roughly fourth in the pecking order at the Bahrain International Circuit, with Red Bull being at the top, ahead of Ferrari and Mercedes. For now, Red Bull is arguably out of reach of everybody, although Stella will take a better look at where McLaren is after this weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

"At the moment, the gap to Max, it's not necessarily like the main parameter we look at," Stella told select media including RacingNews365.

"I'm looking more at the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari, who seem to be within reach.

"But let's see where we will be in Jeddah, that should be a more favourable circuit layout for our car. And I think having seen Bahrain and Jeddah, then we will make a proper assessment in terms of our competitiveness."

Steps to victory 'not too big'

McLaren has dropped from where it was at the conclusion of 2023 in terms of the pecking order: whilst it finished fourth in the Constructors' Championship last season, McLaren was in the top three when it came to car performance.

But the team is better off than at the start of the 2023 season, where it found itself at the back due to an initially uncompetitive package and suggesting Bahrain could provide optimism in catching Red Bull.

"Bahrain was a very strong race for Red Bull even in 2023, they seem to capitalise on the characteristics of their car," added Stella. "Last year, they were pretty much the only car that was able to use two softs in the race.

"And this year, once again, they were the team that was able to use two softs in the race, because they could control the degradation. Because this is a different strategy, different tyre usage, at the moment I'm not looking really at Max.

"If anything, Perez could be the next. Like, we have the two Mercedes' then the two Ferrari's, then Perez. There's some steps before we think about the victory, but those steps are not too big, let's say, which is an encouraging aspect that we take away with us from this weekend."

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Chinese Grand Prix