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McLaren targets "race six or seven" for first major 2024 F1 upgrade

McLaren is targeting "around race six or seven" for a first major upgrade package for its 2024 Formula 1 car, says team principal Andrea Stella.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

McLaren came out of the gates much stronger in 2024 than it did 12 months ago, fighting Mercedes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia for the status of third-fastest team behind Red Bull and Ferrari.

However, a Ferrari resurgence has prevented it from scaling its podium-winning heights of the latter half of 2023.

It has, meanwhile, become clear that some of McLaren's legacy weaknesses have carried over, like its low-speed behaviour and a relatively poor top speed.

According to team boss Stella, the first major upgrade kit to make further improvements to those characteristics is set to follow "around race six or race seven", meaning Miami or Imola.

"We have some minor things that will come for Australia and hopefully for Japan, but they will be [delivering] a few milliseconds," he explained.

"And then hopefully, within the first third of the season, we will have a major upgrade. It's going to be for around race six or seven."

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren

Photo by: Erik Junius

While Stella explained McLaren still had some "margin" to find in the MCL38, he ruled out any major gains until that upgrade package arrives.

"I think there is margin to understand the car a little bit more," he explained. "In Jeddah we had a slightly different approach to set-up between the two cars. And I think we see some interesting positives and negatives.

"This optimisation is maybe worth like one tenth, it's not like you can find any magic. We know the car well, apart from this little difference between the two cars that we will review.

"I think it's very much a matter of upgrades, or adaptation to the track in relation to the track characteristics."

In the meantime, the true pecking order will take a few more races to become apparent, with next month's Japanese Grand Prix considered a solid benchmark due to Suzuka's mix of low and high speed corners as well as a long straight.

But, while McLaren's low-speed weakness is apparent, it is too simplistic to just suggest that the MCL38 is a high-downforce monster, with Stella pointing out a key difference between instantaneous and sustained cornering performance.

"You will have seen that anybody behind the McLaren in sector one [in Jeddah] would lose ground," he said.

"When you have these fast flowing corners in which it's enough to do a first steer input, the car responds very well.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Shameem Fahath

"When instead the corners are long and you need to really hold the steering wheel for a long time, the car gives up a little bit and we lose a lot of time.

"That is where Ferrari are very strong, and that's why Leclerc was so competitive in the last sector, just that [last] corner.

"And the other limitation was still we would like to have more top speed. On those two features we were very well exposed at this track."

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