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McLaren now faces “hardest task” in F1 with future car development

Lando Norris believes McLaren now faces “the hardest task” with improving its Formula 1 car despite massive recent performances gains thrusting the team into regular podium contention.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

McLaren realised it had missed its performance targets over the winter so sought to play down expectations pre-season, and it only scored points in three of the opening eight rounds.

But after floor tweaks in Azerbaijan, team principal Andrea Stella vowed that “pretty much every single aerodynamic part” on the MCL60 would change via a three-stage upgrade plan that began with the Austrian Grand Prix.

This paved the way for four second place finishes for Norris plus a podium for rookie Oscar Piastri in Japan. Despite this massive uptick that has left the team targeting overtaking Aston Martin for fourth in the constructors’ standings, Norris believes the toughest task is to come.

The Brit has now called on McLaren to improve the handling of its cars, rather than chase pure lap time, after struggling to drive his natural style since stepping up to the F1 team in 2018.

Asked what comes next, Norris replied: “A lot of it is small details which make this big difference. Smaller details in terms of making the driver a bit happier rather than just making the car quick.

“But this one of making the car a bit more driveable, a bit more rounded, is almost the hardest task to achieve because it's so difficult to do this without compromise.

“It's such a difficult thing to have the front end good here, but then it not be too strong on the exit because then the rear needs to be better.

“It's more like a juggling act rather than just adding things everywhere. The juggling act is one that's very difficult to achieve.”

Norris backs McLaren and its restructured technical department to step up to the task, adding that he has more confidence in the team than ever before.

Zak Brown, Lando Norris and Andrea Stella in the new wind tunnel at the McLaren Technology Centre

Zak Brown, Lando Norris and Andrea Stella in the new wind tunnel at the McLaren Technology Centre

Photo by: McLaren

“Do I have confidence in it? I would say yes,” he said.

“After this year, I would say I have more confidence than ever that the team can look into these things that we want as drivers and actually start to chip away at them.

“Over the past few years, I would say I haven't had that confidence because we've had [the same handling problems] for the last four or five years.”

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Key to McLaren continuing its upward trend will be its new wind tunnel at Woking, having used the Toyota facility in Cologne since 2010.

After visiting the new wind tunnel, Norris said: “I've never seen the one that we actually were using before. It's impressive, the level of technology now.

“In pictures, you just see it as a tube with car in it. It's a lot more complicated than that! Just with how it then reads everything and how it picks up and the sensors.

“That's what is actually a lot more impressive than you think: the level of accuracy needed to make it usable in any sort of way is pretty impressive.”

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