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Formula 1 Spanish GP

McLaren: No fear that upgraded MCL38 F1 car will suffer at high-speed Barcelona

McLaren believes low-speed gains from its MCL38 Formula 1 car do not mean its high-speed performance has been compromised.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

McLaren has faith that the low-speed gains it has unlocked with recent upgrades do not mean that its MCL38 will be worse off at fast tracks like Barcelona.
The Woking-based squad’s recent cars have typically excelled in high-speed corners, but there has been a shift in the characteristics of its 2024 challenger off the back of upgrades that arrived at Miami.
It found that, while performance was improved across the range, the biggest step came in low-speed turns – for reasons that it was not initially sure about.
However, with teams having found that one of the biggest challenges is in delivering a car that is good at both low and high-speed corners, there has been some uncertainty about whether or not McLaren's gains in one area would come at the expense of its form in the other.
But ahead of what will be an intriguing Spanish Grand Prix weekend, which is more in the medium and high-speed range than recent circuits, McLaren sees no cause for alarm.
Oscar Piastri reckoned that while there was no doubt other teams had closed the gap in high speed, McLaren had every reason to feel it can be in the mix at the front.
“I think we can still be confident,” he said. “I wouldn't say we're weak in high speed, it's just that others have probably caught up a little bit.
“I'm pretty confident we'll be somewhere towards the front as well. Red Bull will probably be a bit stronger than they have been, but we'll be in the fight.”
Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, the Red Bull trophy delegate and George Russell, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, 3rd position, on the podium

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, the Red Bull trophy delegate and George Russell, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, 3rd position, on the podium

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Secret answers

While aware that its low-speed performance had improved since Miami, McLaren was initially unsure about why the step forward had been greater than anticipated.
Team boss Andrea Stella now says the team does understand the dynamics at play but has refused to elaborate on the reasons why in case it hands an advantage to the opposition.
“We are starting to understand that some of the things we were working on unlocked some of the important behaviours of the car, which become relevant for low-speed corners,” he said.
“But that is information that we don't necessarily want to share because we don't want competitors to look into that.
“I think for us internally, it's important that some of the work we have done over the previous month seems to kind of have delivered because we are not at the end of the road in terms of this line of development.
“There's a few more things we can do, and that's what we are concentrating on for further updates this season and obviously the 2025 car.”

Title challenge

McLaren is the highest-scoring team in the last three races – with its 116 points eclipsing Red Bull’s 106 and Ferrari’s 101.
And it is this run of form which has left Piastri feeling that the squad can consider itself a potential championship challenger.
“It'll be tough, definitely, but I think we're in the fight,” he said. “We scored the most points in Canada as a team, not by much [it was equal to Mercedes], but it's definitely a really good result for us.
“we've both been very consistent in the last few weekends. And, across some very different circuits, we've been strong at all of them.
“There are still some things to tidy up and we're talking about little things, but when you're fighting for championships, little things go a long way.
“So it's going to be very tough, and obviously Red Bull's got a bit of a head start. I don't know how far behind Ferrari we are now, but obviously, we took a good bunch of points out of them, so I definitely think we're in the mix. But it'll be a big second half of the year to make it happen.”
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