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Formula 1 Monaco GP

McLaren chasing answers to unexpected F1 upgrade success

McLaren says it is chasing answers as to why its upgraded Formula 1 car is delivering more than it anticipated – especially at slow speeds.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

The Woking-based team introduced a major development step to its MCL38 at the Miami Grand Prix, which helped Lando Norris secure his maiden F1 victory.

Since then, Norris took a second place at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, while team-mate Oscar Piastri finished runner-up in last weekend’s race in Monaco.

But while McLaren is delighted that its updates have helped lift the team to challenge for race wins, it has been left slightly unsure about why the gains that the changes have delivered are greater than it anticipated.

Team principal Andrea Stella says getting to the bottom of that situation is critical to help the squad better understand how it should address further car development.

“What we see and what we expected is just more downforce in all conditions,” explained Stella. “But the car, compared to what we expected, seems to be well-behaved also in low-speed - possibly slightly more than we anticipated based on our development tools, which is good news.

“But obviously this is something that we need to understand very accurately, so that we have the right information to further develop in this direction, because it seems to be very profitable for lap time and also seems to make us competitive in circuits which have low-speed corners.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Erik Junius

Stella thinks that some of the unexpected improvement is likely the result of increased driver confidence allowing  Norris and Piastri to push harder, but equally there are some technical elements that he thinks need to be better understood.

“This aspect of the upgrades possibly working slightly better than expected is kind of across the map,” he said. “It’s not specific to low-speed.

“For us, it’s still an open point as to why the car now seems to be pretty decent in low-speed. And we don’t want to jump to conclusions too early because it’s pretty fundamental that we derive the most precise answer to this question.

“It could be a big opportunity for further development, so we need to understand exactly why the car is now competitive in low-speed.”

But Stella is clear that the issue of the car producing more than expected is not down to a factory-to-track correlation issue – as its actual downforce gain is on target.

“I think we should differentiate here between what is the correlation, and what we measure on track with the expected data. From this point of view, things go pretty much as expected.

“But then the other point is, once you bring these kinds of upgrades and this extra aerodynamic efficiency in particular, what is the lap time you gain?

“You do your simulation and you think you will gain X. But it looks like you gain X plus a little bit. So, it's not about the correlation between development and trackside. It is more that the premium from a lap-time point of view seems to be slightly bigger than what you would simulate.”

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