After a torrid start to 2023, McLaren made dramatic steps with its mid-season car upgrades that allowed Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri to take nine podiums between them, propelling the team past fast-starting Aston Martin to fourth in the constructors’ championship.
That turnaround resulted from a technical restructuring by Stella to better utilise staff already in place at Woking, with its new hires and facility improvements yet to be deployed in 2024 and beyond.
That is driving optimism that McLaren can continue to make big gains and challenge the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes this year.
But Stella says the team doesn’t talk about setting concrete goals like that, and instead focuses on improving its processes and development.
“I won’t talk about how we want to be second, first, third – because that’s not even the language we use internally at McLaren. We don’t talk about this,” Stella told Autosport in an exclusive interview.
“Results take care of themselves. What we talk about is: ‘What do we have to do in terms of aerodynamic development, mechanical development, how do we improve the interaction with the tyres’?
Photo by: FIA Pool
Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren, in the team principals Press Conference
“The normal areas, if you ask any other team they would give you the same answer, just the projects that we need to deliver. How do we deliver projects, how do we make sure that they actually deliver what we want? And that’s what the focus should be.
“We are making sure that every day, we feel we are making a little step forward. We are increasing competency, we are increasing expertise, we are increasing our knowledge in every parameter that ultimately will deliver performance on track.
“Then, once we are in Bahrain, once we are in Saudi, we will see how good a job we have done.”
In the latter stages of 2023, McLaren’s MCL60 was often the second-quickest car on the grid behind the dominant Red Bull RB19.
When asked if McLaren’s better-than-expected performance has meant Stella has had to change any of his plans, he replied: “One thing I often tell especially my leadership team: plans are really good, but we are not here to execute plans, we are here to deliver performance.
“Plans are a good reference, but then pretty much every day you need to adapt and say, ‘what does it mean for my next step and how much do I have to revisit the plan?’
“Plans could easily lead to a comfort zone. I try to take it from the point of view that the focus is on performance. A plan is a tool, it is not the aim.”