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McLaren must investigate whether F1 upgrades have introduced bad handling traits

The McLaren Formula 1 team is ‘hypothesising’ whether upgrades allowing it to challenge Red Bull in 2023 have also introduced “more frequent” bad handling characteristics leading to driver errors.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

James Sutton / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris was threatening to nick pole position off Max Verstappen in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale but on his final flying lap in Q3, he suffered a large slide through the final sector.

This left Norris to rely on his earlier banker effort, which was only good enough for fifth place while rookie team-mate Oscar Piastri - who also battled big spikes of oversteer in practice - ran to third on the grid.

Team boss Andrea Stella said McLaren must now consider whether its string of major upgrades, which were first introduced in Austria, has therefore introduced bad handling traits to the MCL60.

He said: “It is often difficult to understand where is the driving element or is there an engineering element? Is there a characteristic of the car that just makes it so peaky, so unpredictable in some circumstances?

“Certainly, in our [qualifying] debrief we were right in the fact that recently we have had some driving issues that looked to be more frequent than normal. Is there anything that we need to look into?

“Have we embedded in this development, which certainly gave good grip, some elements of possibly the car is just losing too much grip too rapidly in some conditions?

“This is an hypothesis. This is nothing to do with evidence. But you kind of work by hypothesis so that you can look into the data, look into the information with a key. That's certainly a key that we will be using in the coming days to look into what are we learning from these situations.”

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: James Sutton / Motorsport Images

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

When there were no driver errors, McLaren mainly lost its time to Red Bull in the second sector at Yas Marina. This part of the lap contains three low-speed corners and two long straights only.

McLaren has widely acknowledged that low-speed handling is the weakest element of the car. But Stella also reckoned the car was hamstrung by its rear wing set-up that did not make best use of DRS.

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As per Monza, the team has not dedicated resources to developing an ultra-efficient drag package.

The Italian continued: “We are happy with what we see in terms of top speed. If anything, we know that we have left some work to do on the DRS effect, especially on the wing we are using.

“It is a wing that comes from a relatively old design in which we couldn't address the DRS effectively.”

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