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Stella insists McLaren can think about winning races in 2024 with Ferrari ‘not far ahead’

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 28: McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella looks on in the Paddock during

Team Principal Andrea Stella believes McLaren can think about winning races in 2024 if they deliver the same kind of developments they had in Japan, with Ferrari "not far ahead."

So far in 2024 McLaren have appeared visibly next best compared to Ferrari, with Carlos Sainz securing three podiums for the Scuderia – the Spaniard’s brilliant win in Australia among them – while team mate Charles Leclerc was third in Saudi Arabia and backed up Sainz for fourth last time out in Japan.

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In contrast the McLaren pair of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri could only slip back from their starting positions in Japan, finishing fifth and eighth respectively. While the team have enjoyed a far better start to this season than last – occupying third in the constructors' standings on 69 points, 51 points behind second-placed Ferrari – Stella is keen to make up ground on those above.

Despite coming off second best to the Scuderia in Japan, the Italian was adamant McLaren were not that far behind, while also signalling that developing their car was a “main objective” going forwards.

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“Today, it looks like we lost this battle, but we are working hard so that we will be equipped in the near future to be more competitive,” Stella told F1 Nation following events at Suzuka. “I would say Ferrari, definitely, they are not far ahead.

“I think it will be definitely a battle of development this year because these cars still offer quite a lot of performance through development. I would say this is the main objective for us.

“It’s good to see that it’s just a few tenths that they are better than us. In a track like this, where you have high degradation, easy overtaking to some extent, then it’s difficult to keep faster cars behind, even if we have had a very strong qualifying. This means that the cars pretty much finished in the competitiveness order.”

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He continued: “Our expectations were definitely that we could have finished on the podium. We did try to finish on the podium because we stopped early with Lando to make sure that we retained the track position, but ultimately we didn’t have enough pace to retain the track position – especially Carlos, he could stay out, gain some laps on his tyres and then he could go through Lando and overtake with no problems.

“We were hoping for a podium, ultimately we discovered in the race that it wasn’t possible, but like I say, it’s not far. Hopefully soon we will have some developments that will make this much more possible.

“We should have a good round of developments in Miami. Even if it’s a Sprint event, we will definitely attempt to deploy them. Then we should have at least one, if not two, more rounds of development over this season.”

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on

McLaren are hopeful their future developments could see them challenge for race wins in 2024

While McLaren fans will undoubtedly be excited by the prospect of the future, in the hope they can challenge more regularly at the front, Stella also stressed that it was vital the team consolidated their position as the third best at this stage of 2024.

Their points tally so far is in stark contrast to this time last year, when they had posted 14 points after four events – 55 less than what they’ve amassed in 2024. All that points to the tremendous transformation the squad have enjoyed over the last year with Stella insisting the team could be looking at winning races in the near future.

“The first part of the message we deliver internally is that it’s an important result for us to consolidate McLaren as the third-best team at this stage of the season, because it confirms the trajectory that we started 12 months ago, and this shouldn’t be given for granted,” he said.

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“This is the first positive. Definitely, we look ahead. Definitely, we look at the fact that Ferrari is not far, it’s definitely within the reach of our development capability. Therefore, we are fully determined to deliver enough performance on the car to go and attack Ferrari for second place.

“Then, if we deliver the same kind of developments we delivered last race, then why not think about winning races this year. I don’t want to look arrogant, but I think this is within the numbers, within the facts, and definitely this is the mindset that everyone has at McLaren. We will work hard to make this happen.”

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