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The ultimate recovery of an F1 giant

In the space of 12 months, McLaren has gone from being a backmarker to a potential championship contender. RacingNews365 takes a deeper look at its staggering turnaround.

Norris Australia
To news overview © XPBimages

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella would have bitten your hand off 12 months ago if he was told that the Woking-based outfit would be in title contention after eight races in 2024. 

This time last season, the giant of Formula 1 was in a world of trouble and looking doomed for a bottom-half of the table finish in the constructors' championship. 

Fast forward to today, and McLaren are in what looks set to be an exceptional fight for the title against Red Bull and Ferrari. But what has triggered this sensational comeback?

It is known that a key to McLaren's turnaround was a huge upgrades package for the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix, which saw Lando Norris in particular suddenly find himself on the pace of Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin. 

The following race – the British Grand Prix – and Norris led the opening laps, something which could never have been expected after the Briton and Oscar Piastri were towards the very back in the Bahrain season-opener. 

McLaren's first significant upgrade brought the MCL60 to life and put Norris and Piastri in a position where fighting for podiums and pole positions was possible, whilst a further upgrade at the Singapore Grand Prix ensured that the British side ended 2023 with the second-fastest package.

Its early season troubles meant fourth in the standings was the maximum they could hope for. However, McLaren has gone into another gear so far in 2024. 

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Another level in 2024

From the get-go, McLaren was stronger than Mercedes and Aston Martin but behind Red Bull and Ferrari, before another large upgrade changed it all. Norris received an exciting upgrades package for the Miami Grand Prix, which Piastri received only half of.

The outcome of the upgrade, Norris claiming his maiden F1 victory at the Miami International Autodrome. Yes, there was an element of luck with the timing of the safety car, but all weekend McLaren had the fastest package. 

McLaren once again had the fastest car in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where Norris fell just seven tenths of a second short of claiming back-to-back F1 wins. At Imola, Piastri's car was also fitted with the full upgrade package. 

Piastri shone in the recent Monaco Grand Prix and finished on the podium in a Ferrari sandwich, with it having been the second race this season – Australia was the first – where Red Bull colours did not feature. 

In 12 months, McLaren has gone from the back of the field to the front at certain venues, increasing speculation that Red Bull have been caught and that a genuine title fight is on the cards. 

The numbers do not lie, McLaren has done in 12 months what Mercedes have been trying to do since 2022.

See below data comparing McLaren's points after the first eight races of the 2023 season and the current 2024 season. Article continues below the data.

Points comparision after eight rounds

2023 2024
17 184

Position in championship after eight rounds

2023 2024
6th 3rd

Points behind championship lead after eight rounds

2023 2024
304 92

Is it all just down to upgrades?

From the outside looking in, it is easy to pin McLaren's comeback down to successful upgrades; however, that is not entirely true. 

Personnel changes and a restructuring of the team's technical department has been critical, with former technical director James Key having left in March last year. 

Key's departure was met with several high-profile signings, such as David Sanchez and Rob Marshall from Ferrari and Red Bull. 

The new structure saw Key's replaced by three technical directors, including Sanchez, Marshall and Peter Prodromou who was already with the team. 

The new structure of the technical department led to an almost immediate change in fortunes, with good points having suddenly been scored. 

Sanchez did actually leave McLaren after three months in April this year, but the structure of the technical department itself, as well as the personnel, has proven to be highly beneficial. 

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