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Formula 1 Saudi Arabian GP

McLaren F1 boss plays down Baku GP upgrade package

McLaren Formula 1 team principal Andrea Stella has tempered expectations that the major upgrade package coming for the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix will dramatically revive the team’s fortunes.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

From the February launch of the MCL60 car, which is an evolution of the 2022 design that Stella said McLaren was “not entirely happy with”, the prevailing sentiment has been that the team must be “realistic” in the early races.

While Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both hit reliability problems in the Bahrain season opener, they were buoyed by pace that should have left them on the cusp of points.

But both cars sustaining damage in Saudi Arabia last weekend to return 15th and 17th in the race means the team remains last in the championship and is yet to score.

However, since the MCL60 was unveiled, the emphasis been on a major upgrade package that will be introduced for Baku to effectively debut a ‘B-spec’ car to allow the team to fight for fourth place.

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren, in a Press Conference

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren, in a Press Conference

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

However, Stella has now started to play down the instant impact that this significant update will have.

Asked by Autosport for an update, Stella started by addressing the current key flaws of the MCL60.

He said: “In terms of weaknesses of the car, we talk about aerodynamic efficiency. Not necessarily this means the car is draggy.

“Simply the ratio between downforce and drag is not as high as we would like. That's the main weakness.”

In response to rookie Piastri progressing into Q3 to land eighth on the grid in Saudi, Stella continued: “In a way, the reason why we are more competitive here is associated with the fact that the Tarmac is very, very grippy.

“You rely less on aerodynamic load; you have more grip coming from the tyres.

“So. these conditions kind of hide a little bit the underlying deficit from an aerodynamic point of view.

Then, when forecasting the Azerbaijan development, Stella was keen to say that it will take more than one "promising" package to have McLaren back on course to hit its targets of fighting for fourth.

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The Italian said: “When it comes to the Baku upgrade, we do see the numbers, which are promising.
“It's hopefully from sixth, it will allow us to be fifth.

“It's not enough yet to achieve our objective for the season, which is to become a top four car.

“This will require the Baku upgrade and we require another couple of upgrades following Baku on which we are working [on].”

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