HALF TERM REPORT: McLaren – Can they keep pushing on after the most remarkable turnaround?
If anything proves how much can change in just a few months, then you don’t need to look much further than McLaren in this 2023 season. From beginning the campaign with a desperately slow car, to fighting for podiums, it has been a mighty turnaround. Here is their half term report…
Lando Norris – 2nd in Great Britain and Hungary
Those back-to-back P2 finishes for Lando Norris were special, for both him and McLaren as a whole. It showcased that their leap in performance – once their complete remodel was put on the MCL60 – was absolutely the real deal.
In Norris they have a driver who can mix it at the top when given the tools to work with, and he proved it with those stellar runs at Silverstone and in Budapest.
His podium celebrations may have trophy designers everywhere worried, but you’d certainly back him to finish in the top three a few more times during the second half of the season.
Norris 10-2 Piastri
So far it has been Norris that has had the edge over his rookie team mate Oscar Piastri in the qualifying head-to-head, but as the season has gone on the Australian has more than showcased the potential he has. When you consider he had no racing through 2022, it’s actually quite remarkable what he’s doing in the car.
For Norris, he has ‘evolved’ into a leading driver for McLaren – in the words of team boss Andrea Stella – and had some eye-catching qualifying performances even before that Austria/Silverstone upgrade package was bolted onto the car – that P3 in Spain being one example.
Norris 9-3 Piastri
Norris once again has the edge here on his less experienced team mate, but the difference between the two is nowhere near as wide as that score suggests. From Silverstone onwards Piastri has been hot on the heels of Norris – he could have had a podium himself in Britain were it not for an unfortunately-timed safety car that left him fourth – and his P2 finish in the Sprint at Spa showed exactly what he can do.
Meanwhile Norris has continued to perform and shown why so many people rate him so highly. Those P2 results are the high points without doubt, but to earn P7 at Spa amid straight-line speed struggles was a stellar effort in itself.
Silverstone. What a day that was for McLaren and Zak Brown’s exuberant high fives for the team in the garage displayed that. There would have been some red raw palms afterwards.
Not only was Norris’ P2 and Piastri’s P4 something to shout about, bringing in a hefty number of points in the process, but the newly dubbed 'rocketship' also brought with it a sense of relief among the McLaren team. Those changes with the car had worked and all that hard work had paid off following a disappointing start to the season.
An honourable mention here also goes to Piastri’s Sprint P2 in Belgium – the Australian has more than deserved to have a moment in the spotlight this year.
Rewind back to the end of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and the mood at McLaren was low. The car they had was so slow it struggled to get out of the first section of qualifying and the race results in the first two rounds showed that – P17 and a DNF in Bahrain, P17 and P15 in Jeddah.
Patience was needed as they grafted to get themselves out of that position, and they are reaping the rewards now.
The start of the season is now a distant memory for McLaren, but they can’t let off at all. Such was their lack of performance in the first eight races, they may struggle to better their current position of fifth in the constructors’ championship – they’re 88 points behind fourth-placed Ferrari.
But crucially the battle is on. A whopping 83% of their 103 points have come since the Austria/Silverstone upgrade was introduced and only Red Bull have scored more in that time. A decent sized package of improvements is expected after the summer break too, so more battles for podium places is a must.
What’s more, the team have a dream driver pairing in two young, hungry and outrageously talented individuals. With Norris and Piastri evolving further, while battling at the top, it will only serve as a benefit for the team going forward and into 2024.
Some even fancy McLaren to score a Grand Prix victory before the campaign is out.