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Could the McLaren comeback start this weekend on the streets of Monte Carlo?
It feels like fans have been waiting all season long for the McLaren comeback.
Could it start this week at the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix?
McClaren CEO Zak Brown certainly believes bigger things are on the horizon. Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, Brown admitted that while the Miami Grand Prix was not the team’s best effort, better things are coming.
“Miami sucked – clearly disappointing,” said Brown. “We are getting to know more about our car, and we understand why we weren’t where we needed to be in Miami.”
However, every event offers chances to learn, and Brown outlined that the struggles in South Beach set the team up for a chance at a rebound.
“So, the first step if you have an issue is understanding it versus scratching your head being confused,” said the McLaren boss.
This season has been a struggle for the team. There were rumblings as far back as pre-season testing that the MCL60, their challenger for the 2023 campaign, was not where they wanted it to be. During preseason testing Team Principal Andrea Stella noted that sometimes just advancing to Q3 would be considered a win for the team.
Following the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix — where Lando Norris finished in P17 and rookie Oscar Piastri finished in P20 — Stella outlined the problems with the MCL60, and pointed to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as when necessary upgrades would be arriving.
“The main limitation that we have at the moment is aerodynamic downforce. Obviously we can improve the rate of development in the car by having better infrastructure, by having more workforce and this is why we are having the investments that are ongoing now at McLaren,” said Stella after the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“There are some areas of the car that seem to be able to generate good downforce, like I’ve said already, they were not ready in time to be part of the launch spec,” added Stella. “But this car will evolve pretty much race-by-race, with some major upgrades that will come, the first one around race four.”
That fourth race? The Azerbaijan Grand Prix, following a long layoff. However, in the days leading up to that race, Norris explained to SB Nation that while they were bringing some new parts to Baku, they were more in line with where the MCL60 should have been at the start of the year. “We’ve got a couple new bits on the car which is good, the team’s done a very good job to get them for now. But I think these are the things I think we said we should have started the season with,” said the driver during our interview. “But we’ve got them now, which I think is the main thing. They should definitely move the car forward.”
Interestingly enough, Norris pointed to Miami as where they might see the most improvement.
“[Baku’s] not maybe the best track to show that, and to prove that exactly. It’s a bit more biased, and the places it’ll help improve the car maybe aren’t shown that much on this track, maybe a little bit more in Miami,” added Norris. “It’s definitely going to be a step forward, definitely going to be some things to help the car give me some more confidence and Oscar too. That’s a good thing, that’s what we want. And for now it’s the small steps forward that we’re needing to just getting us one or two more points when we can make those opportunities.”
Now, his boss is pointing to Monaco.
“I think we will go alright in Monaco; we obviously came to the table with an underdeveloped car at the start of the year. We knew that we called our shot, and it turned out we knew we weren’t going to be where we want to be,” said Brown on the F1 Nation podcast. “But the exciting part is we think we are going to get a lot better. For Monaco, not a lot of development, so I think it is going to be more the second half of the year. But we’ve run well at Monaco, and we think it’s a track that suits our car more than Miami.”
There are reasons to believe in what Brown is saying about Monaco. One of the biggest problems for McLaren this season is a lack of straight-line speed. Following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix Norris addressed that with Sky Sports. “It’s tough. Like straight-line speed, we know where we are, but it’s still pretty shocking,” he said after Azerbaijan.
However, through corners the MCL60 has been able to at least keep pace. With the layout of Monaco consisting of some tight corners, the slowest stretch of track on the entire F1 calendar, minimal straights, and just a single DRS zone, that could see McLaren be in the fight.
And in Brown’s mind, that could just be the beginning of something good.
“I think Monaco will be better, we feel good about Montreal, and we will start having some more significant developments around Austria and the British Grand Prix,” said the McLaren boss. “Hopefully [we’re] on track for a strong second half of the year.”
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