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McLaren and Red Bull performance levels now ‘very, very close’ says Stella as Verstappen praises rivals

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McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella has said the performance of his team’s MCL38 machine is now “very, very close” to Red Bull’s previously indomitable RB20 in the aftermath of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Upgrades brought to the McLaren at the Miami Grand Prix saw an immediate upturn in form, with Lando Norris securing a breakthrough maiden victory at that race – while a McLaren has finished in P2 at every Grand Prix since.

READ MORE: Verstappen just holds off Norris to win super-tight Spanish Grand Prix as Hamilton claims first podium of 2024

Most recently in Spain, Norris secured the second pole position of his career, before finishing within three seconds of Max Verstappen, and chiding himself for losing a race he “should have won”.

Looking at the big picture, however, Stella was encouraged by the impressive performance his team were showing currently – especially compared to their difficult start to 2023.

“I think the two cars are very, very close,” said Stella, when asked how the McLaren matched up to the Red Bull.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 23: McLaren Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown talks with Second placed

McLaren are on an upward trajectory currently

“I think in Canada, the difference in qualifying was 20 milliseconds, here it was again a few milliseconds and very similar in the race. That's a great achievement for McLaren, if we think how this interview would have been 12 months ago, so now we talk about being on par with Red Bull – but we want to keep improving the car.

“We do have to keep the trajectory up,” Stella added. “It's not obvious, it requires a lot of work, it requires to keep evolving what we know about the car so that you can keep improving it, but people at McLaren are very committed and I'm optimistic for the future.”

TECH WEEKLY: The Red Bull set-up dilemma that allowed McLaren to sneak pole in Barcelona

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 22: Pole position qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren and

Verstappen has been impressed by McLaren in recent races

Verstappen took pole in the first seven races of 2024, but has now not recorded a pole position since the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. And after losing out to Norris in qualifying in Spain before only narrowly beating his friend and rival in the race, Verstappen was generous in his praise of what McLaren are currently achieving on track.

“I always knew that it was going to be very close,” said Verstappen after the Barcelona race. “And McLaren is just doing a really, really good job. They have brought a lot of good updates to their car, and it really just seems to work. And from our side, we have brought things to the car, but probably not as much lap time as what others have been bringing to their car.

READ MORE: Norris claims he ‘should have won’ Spanish GP after tardy race start ‘ruined everything’

“So now it's up to us to try and find a bit more, try to get that little jump ahead again. Because I think clearly today, we just lacked a bit of that outright pace, but also just when we had to push, we just couldn't look after the tyres like Lando, for example, could.

“So these kind of things are quite crucial on most of the tracks where you have a bit of deg [degradation]. So yeah, we need to try and be better on that.”

Despite McLaren’s strong recent form, Ferrari remain ahead of them in P2 in the constructors’ championship, while leaders Red Bull are a full 93 points clear of the Woking team.

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