New team principal Andrea Stella and McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown admitted that 2022-23 winter development targets had been missed when the MCL60 challenger was launched.
The car duly failed to score a point across the opening two weekends but, led by a three-stage major update package, emerged as the most credible and consistent challenger to Red Bull.
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Speaking exclusively to Autosport, F1 rookie Piastri – who won the Qatar Grand Prix sprint race – reckons the speed of the 2023 revival surpassed what anyone had predicted.
“I’ve got complete confidence in [Stella], in Zak, in different parts of the business,” he said.
“It’s exceeded everyone’s expectations of how quickly we’ve been able to turn things around.
“For me, the impressive thing was I felt there was a very good base with the race team at the races. And then when we needed to make changes, we did, and it’s worked.
“The upgrades were able to deliver everything we hoped, in some cases more than we expected in certain situations. I didn’t expect to be in this position so early in my time at McLaren…
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Oscar Piastri, McLaren, 2nd position, with his trophy
“The numbers were as we expected, but we didn’t expect it to vault us up so far.
“Something we tried to keep in perspective at the start was, ‘Yes, we’re slow and near the back of the grid. But it’s not actually going to take that much to get towards the front’.”
Given McLaren has signed off on a new wind tunnel, has poached high-ranking technical staff from Red Bull and Ferrari for 2024, plus does not have to develop and learn a new car concept for this season per Mercedes and Ferrari, the expectation is for the team to pressure Red Bull.
Asked if McLaren will continue its upward trajectory to catch up to the runaway constructors’ champion, or whether the development curve would flatten, Piastri replied: “The biggest thing is to continue the momentum. If you stand still, you’re going backwards.
“Of course, we don’t know what the other teams have around us.
“We’re happier than we were at this point 12 months ago with how things are looking. But until you’re on track with everyone else, you never quite know what it’s going to be like…
“The thing for us is, we still have pretty clear weaknesses [low-speed handling] compared to our competitors. It’s just that we also have good strengths as well.
“How those are going to balance up against each other is always difficult even for us to know. Every team has some sort of fluctuation at every circuit apart from Red Bull [at] Singapore.”