‘Short Of Our Targets’ – Are McLaren Heading For ANOTHER Dismal Season In 2023?

Around this time last year, McLaren F1 Team had a lot on their plate. One of their drivers was battling Covid, and their car had a tendency to set its brakes on fire. The atmosphere surrounding the team was ominous, and their 14th and 15th place finishes at the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix kicked off a season where they were stuck in midfield mediocrity. 

Now, the big question is: can things get even worse for McLaren in 2023? The team has admitted to falling short of their preseason targets, which means they’re entering the first race of the season at a disadvantage. At SinkorSwimSports, we’ll be taking a closer look at the problems plaguing McLaren ahead of the 2023 season.

Mclaren 2023 F1 Car
McLaren have failed to hit a number of aerodynamic targets

Setting McLaren F1 2023 Expectations

Andrea Stella, the new team boss at McLaren, has already lowered expectations by admitting that the team is not entirely satisfied with their 2023 car, the MCL60, in its launch specification. This is unusual for launch season, where teams typically exude confidence and optimism. McLaren’s comparatively subdued launch suggests that the team is aware of the challenges it faces.

Since preseason testing, it has become clear why Stella was so candid. The MCL60 has been difficult to control, with drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri clocking in less mileage than any other team during the three days of testing in Bahrain. The car has looked clunky and labored, raising concerns about McLaren’s competitiveness this season.

Speaking about the disappointing start to the MCL60’s life, Stella claimed: 

“Last year, we had some clear objectives in terms of development. They had to do with aerodynamic efficiency; some development related to the exploitation of the tyres, and also some other objectives to improve the balance. The reality is that most of these objectives have actually been met. But the objective in terms of aerodynamic efficiency of the car, that’s the one where we are still shy of what was our target.”

Falling Behind The Pack

When an F1 car has poor aerodynamic performance, it produces too much drag, which can slow it down in straightaways. This can lead to a compromise in wide angles, which can make the car harder to handle in the brake zones and slower when turning.

Unfortunately, this is the situation that McLaren finds itself in with the MCL60. The team knows that they are compromising themselves in the corners, but they feel it’s the lesser of two evils, considering how slow the car is in a straight line.

McLaren’s early season struggles in 2023 are the last thing that fans of the Woking-based outfit wanted to hear. The team had a slow start in 2022 and ended up falling closer to the midfield competition than to the big three teams at the top.

Moreover, Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo seem to have made significant improvements during testing, raising concerns that McLaren may fall behind altogether, at least in the first few rounds of the season. In Bahrain, McLaren completed the fewest laps of any team in testing this year, clocking in at 312. While not disastrous, this number falls significantly short of Alpha Tauri’s leading figure of 456.

As a result, Q1 exits are becoming increasingly likely for the team. This is not to say that McLaren hasn’t made progress from last season – the team and car are in a much better position than they were at this time in 2022. However, they haven’t made the same level of progress as their competitors, which could make this season a challenging one.

MCL60 2023
The MCL60 suffers from having too much drag

Brighter Times Ahead?

Despite the slow start for the McLaren F1 2023 season, there are reasons for cautious optimism about the MCL60.

Unlike Mercedes last season, who stuck with a concept that ultimately didn’t work, McLaren realized they needed to change their approach early on and are now working to implement a new spec before the season starts. Although this has caused some delays, the team believes it will be worth it in the long run.

McLaren’s goal has always been to finish in the top four teams this season, and even with the delays, they remain confident that they can achieve this. The MCL60 will receive a significant upgrade package by round four in Baku, which is expected to transform the car into a competitive force.

So while the upcoming race in Bahrain may be challenging, the success of McLaren’s season will likely depend on the impact of these upgrades.

Andrea Stella, who was promoted to team boss during the offseason, has maintained a realistic (bordering on pessimistic) outlook, so his promise of a ‘significant’ upgrade package should not be taken lightly.

Mclaren F1 2023
What are your expectations for the McLaren F1 2023 season?