So much so that both their drivers finished in the top 3 at Suzuka. We observed how they managed to climb the stairs so carefully.
After the first eight races, McLaren stood with just 17 points in the constructors’ championship, and they were not even compared to the best in the pole position. On the opening weekend in Bahrain in particular Lando Norris finish last, Oscar Piastre and stop.
After improvements in Austria, they scored 155 points in the next eight races. So they are in fifth place with 172 points, 49 points behind Aston Martin, with six races remaining.
In the second half of the season, ie in the last eight races, McLaren scored third points, behind Ferrari. At least as important is the fact that, from the driver’s point of view, he is the only two-time champion in that period. Max Verstappen he collected more points than the team’s number one driver, Lando Norris.
But how did they achieve this level of resurrection?
To understand this, we must go back to the end of 2022, when the team already saw that the MCL60 planned for this year had limitations. New team leader Andrea Stella they indicated before the season that early results would be limited, but by the end of the season they would aim for fourth place in the constructors’ championship.
At the time, many people laughed at the goal that seemed so ambitious, but now, it turns out, it is quite true to squeeze fourth place behind Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari.
The engineering staff was replaced, the former technical director, James Key left with Peter Prodromoutoo Neil Houdley he reached his place. The development package prepared by the new team was presented in Austria, later more innovations arrived at the British Grand Prix, and then everything fell apart in Singapore.
“Many things had to be rearranged” Stella said. “We also changed the front wing, and later in Singapore, we also changed the side wing. There was a lot of detailed work going on, which was also very interesting to me.”
The team is aware that small but significant gains can be made in slower corners, but there are also problems with the car’s steering. They are already preparing for 2024, the first measurements of the wind tunnel are very encouraging, according to Stella.
Few doubted that Piastri would transfer his experience in the lower categories well to Formula 1, but it was clear that as the car became more competitive, the 22-year-old Australian also became more and more successful. The team’s competitors were also satisfied with their qualities, but Stella praised their human side.
“We saw already on the first day that his result as a teenager was not due to luck. He was very fast from the first moment, but at the same time he felt where he still needed to improve. What he said was completely consistent with what we saw in the data. That was impressive. He has insight very good at how he can take advantage of the opportunities that are presented, this was evident first in the trials and later in the competition as well.”
“His attitude was also right from the first minute, which is the key for a rider to be able to constantly improve. Many talents have already died because they had no desire to develop. Now we have two riders who are determined to be better and better.
“Furthermore, in Oscar’s case, it was not only important to us that he fits into the culture in which we work, but also that he could contribute.”
It was important that he bring patterns of behavior and values that help us become a true, cohesive team. He did that. If he wasn’t an F1 driver, I’d still respect him as a person.
Stella also insisted that Piastri was fully cooperative even when he received a new, improved car one race later than Norris twice.
“He didn’t make any sarcastic, inappropriate comments, directly or indirectly. We discussed everything calmly, rationally and constructively. That’s what I’m talking about when I say that someone fits perfectly into the environment.”
For the final third of the season, everything seems to be coming together at McLaren. The upgrades work, the atmosphere is great, and the two pilots do well. On top of that, there is Stella, a calm and confident boss who seems to be doing a great job of managing the team.
So it seems that McLaren is on the perfect track. That this would be the case was not in the cards four months ago.