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McLaren ‘optimistic’ they can take fight to Red Bull in 2024 after strong development rate

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SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 04: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

McLaren have voiced confidence over their chances of taking the fight to Red Bull in 2024, with the team “optimistic” that they can beat the world champions – at least on certain occasions – following their impressive development in 2023.

Last season got off to a difficult start for the Woking-based squad but, after the arrival of upgrades in Austria, the team enjoyed an impressive resurgence that saw them occasionally pose a threat to their rivals near the front of the pack.

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At the launch of their new MCL38 car, Team Principal Andrea Stella acknowledged that beating Red Bull could be challenging, but suggested that – should McLaren repeat their rate of development in 2024 – the outfit could be in a very strong position.

“I think, at the start of the season, my expectation is that Red Bull will keep enjoying some advantage,” Stella explained. “They didn’t develop the car very much last year. I would think that it’s reasonable to expect that they will have accumulated, let’s say, some knowledge and development last year that will be capitalised onto the 2024 car. That’s my expectation.

“Saying that, I think looking at ourselves, looking at McLaren, if – and I say if – we keep the development rate we had in 2023 that we will have hopefully on the 2024 car, if we keep this development rate then I think we can be in a strong position.

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“Whether that’s enough to challenge Red Bull and the other top teams, [who] certainly will have made good improvements, we will find out, but we think that this is a strong development rate. But like I said, it’s now up to us to try and consolidate over time.”

Lando Norris agrees with Stella and, while he is positive that McLaren can beat Red Bull on certain occasions, he admitted that the task will be trying to stay ahead of them on a more consistent basis.

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“If you were to say, 'are they beatable?' you’re going to have to say yes,” the Briton added. “I think we want to believe to say yes, because we were very close at certain times [last year] and at certain times we did beat them.

“The question is can we beat them over a season? I think that’s going to be the challenging thing, and I think it’s going to be very difficult to do with how well they’re performing. So yeah, [I’m] optimistic. [Is it] possible to beat them at certain times? I want to believe so, yeah.”

Oscar Piastri – who claimed victory in the Qatar Sprint in 2023 during his rookie season in Formula 1 – similarly sounded an optimistic note about what McLaren can do in the fight, which he expects to involve the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari too.

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“You have to have the optimism that you can beat them,” the Australian commented. “Like Lando said, we got very close at certain times, with some success, in certain sessions. I think, like Andrea was saying, if we can keep the same rate of development then we can be very optimistic.

“But we also have to be aware that it’s not just Red Bull that we’re fighting as well. We’re in a very intense battle with Mercedes and Ferrari – [we were] especially in the second half of the year. In terms of championship points, in the second half of the season it was incredibly close between us.

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“We’re all teams that have had a lot of success at various stages, so we have to be wary [that] it’s not just Red Bull that we’re fighting, and I think they’ll be other top teams that are making progress as well.”

All 10 teams will soon be in action for the first time when pre-season testing takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit from February 21-23.

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