‘McLaren technical team not good enough to move forward’

Total-Motorsport.com take a closer look at what to expect from McLaren ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 season

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McLaren were the only team outside of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes to take a podium in 2022, courtesy of Lando Norris‘ third place at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

They were disappointed to end the year in fifth in the constructors’ championship and changes over the winter saw Andreas Seidl leave the team, with Andrea Stella becoming the new team principal.

In the summer it was announced Daniel Ricciardo‘s contract would be terminated ahead of 2023 as the Australian failed to meet expectations and he would be replaced by compatriot Oscar Piastri, who was embroiled in a contract dispute with Alpine which went the way of McLaren.

Total-Motorsport.com journalists Adam Dickinson, Andrew Wright, Ed Spencer and Nigel Chiu take a look at what to expect from McLaren in 2023.

Nigel Chiu: McLaren’s technical team not be good enough to move forward

Over the last 12 months I’ve began to think McLaren‘s technical team is not quite up to scratch to make a car that can challenge for race wins.

The long wait a wind tunnel will finally come to an end in the middle of this year, but they have been in this midfield position, or worse, for a decade now and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

It’s surely no coincidence that Norris, Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz have spoken about a “strange” or “unique” driving style that is needed to get the most from the car over the last few years.

So that’s three cars, since 2020, and three drivers agreeing with something which suggests McLaren are building machines that are not easy to drive and have a narrow operating window. For reference, James Key has been the team’s technical director since March 2019.

They have an excellent driver line-up though as Norris just continues to impress. I’m not fully onboard the Piastri hype train, despite his outstanding junior career. I’d even go as far as Norris might show him up somewhat this season…

Andrew Wright: Steady progress rather than a meteoric leap

As a lifelong fan of McLaren it pained me to see them take such a backwards step in 2022. They finally had some real momentum behind them and it was somewhat thrown away. That will be hard to get back, especially with the loss of Seidl.

However, I do expect them to turn up to Bahrain for the first race of 2023 with a better and more driveable package.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri with the 2023 McLaren F1 car | McLaren F1 Team

They have also got a potential trump card in Piastri, the highly sought-after Aussie rookie the team were desperate to get on the books.

If he hits the ground running and forms a solid relationship with Norris, that’s a driver pairing that could punch well above their weight. I think it’ll be a case of steady progress rather than a meteoric leap, though.

Ed Spencer: No room to hide for Piastri

Going into 2022, McLaren was seemingly on the right track, but the season was a disappointment as the team went backwards, dropping to fifth in the constructors behind Alpine.

The one bright spot was Norris, who became not only a team leader but also one of the best drivers on the grid, dragging the McLaren to places it didn’t belong.

Norris has remained one of the few constants at McLaren. Not only does Stella become team principal following the departure of Seidl, but Piastri graduates to F1 with the team.

Oscar Piastri and Andrea Stella appraise the MCL60, McLaren’s 2023 F1 car | McLaren F1 Team

Piastri’s outstanding pedigree in the junior ranks is already well known, but he will have an arduous task to beat Norris, and with plenty of eyes on him, there will be no room to hide.

Another transitional year could cause future headaches for McLaren so an upturn in fortunes is a must. 

Adam Dickinson: I’m not sure if they can arrest slide from 2022

McLaren took their first step back in four years in 2022, and I’m not sure whether they can arrest that slide in 2023. Norris should star again and McLaren will hope to see more points from the other half of the garage as Piastri replaces Ricciardo. If any rookie can do it, Piastri can.

However, McLaren’s 2023 development was delayed and their big infrastructure projects will only come online to benefit the second half of the 2020s, so I think they’ll be battling for fifth, sixth or seventh rather than fighting Alpine at the front of the midfield.

Nigel Chiu
Nigel Chiuhttps://total-motorsport.com/author/nigel-chiu/
Nigel Chiu is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who worked at Total-Motorsport for 18 months until May 2023. He has been following F1 since 2007 and hasn’t missed a Grand Prix weekend since. Nigel’s worked with several motorsport websites, plus Eurosport and subsequently went on to work with Sky Sports where he travels to multiple F1 races each season.
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