McLaren chief fires back at critics: Pace of the car beyond expectation

Can McLaren recover from a disappointing start to the 2023 F1 season?

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Contrary to popular belief, McLaren team principal Andrea Stella thinks there were plenty of positives to take from a Bahrain Grand Prix that yielded zero points.

The first race of the 2023 Formula 1 season appeared to represent nothing short of a disaster for the Woking-based outfit after both cars were struck by reliability issues. Rookie Oscar Piastri‘s was terminal and cut his debut short, and Lando Norris‘ may as well have been as it left him two laps down in 17th place.

This came following a poor showing in testing and on the back of a disappointing Bahrain GP qualifying, with neither driver able to make the top-10 shootout. However, rather than panic, Stella insisted he was actually encouraged by the data gathered under the lights in Sakhir.

“I think the most positive element is that without issues, Lando would have been a strong contender for points,” Stella told reporters after the 2023 Bahrain GP.

“The pace of the car in the race was almost beyond expectation. I think in the race we see some reward of the work we did over the winter of trying to improve the interaction of the car with the tyres.

Lando Norris of McLaren during 2023 Bahrain GP | McLaren F1 Team

“This was certainly a strong position on Lando’s side but also Oscar actually was having good degradation in the first stint. He overtook cars.

“It was a very tight race so we could have been in the points with two cars. That’s the most positive outcome of this event.

“I thought before coming here, Q3 was difficult but also points would have been difficult. But actually today, we could see they were up for grabs more easily than I thought.

“The other element we have to acknowledge is that the midfield is even tighter than last year.

“I think if you race well, if we can improve the car a few tenths, like we plan to do, then we can have some enjoyable races soon.”

Oscar Piastri was forced to retire from the Bahrain Grand Prix | Image credit: McLaren F1 Team

Where does Piastri need to improve?

The 2023 Bahrain GP was somewhat of a baptism of fire for the Australian rookie, whose debut lasted just 14 laps courtesy of an electronic issue. In truth, it was a tough weekend for Piastri, having failed to progress out of the first stage of qualifying.

Stella conceded there are areas in which the 21-year-old will need to improve while acknowledging the difficulty of the task at hand alongside a formidable teammate.

“I think it’s the overall race craft we need to develop,” Stella identified. “But not because there is any lack of talent.

“We are very pleased with what we saw yesterday in qualifying.

“Apart from the big oversteer in corner two, which meant he lost the possibility to go into Q2 in a single corner, in some other corners, he was a match for Lando, which is really very encouraging.

“That’s in terms of pure speed on new tyres. In the race, the race stint consistency, lap after lap, was the best long run he has done.

“Just carry on in all areas with the same methodical and progressive approach that he has shown so far.”

Andrew Wright
Andrew Wrighthttps://total-motorsport.com
Sports Journalist for Total-Motorsport.com
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