With the opening round of the new Formula 1 season just weeks away, McLaren has joined other teams in launching its 2023 contender. Known as the McLaren MCL60, the new car marks a bold new direction in engineering. However, public quotes from team members at the launch suggest the car may not be everything the team had hoped for.
As covered by Autosport, the reveal gave a nod to McLaren's 60th anniversary, taking place at the team's factory in Woking, England on Monday. The reveal is the first for new team principal Andrea Stella, and was attended by the team's driver pairing of incumbent Lando Norris and rookie Oscar Piastri. The MCL60 was shown off with a bold new sidepod design, while wearing a livery that adds a lot more black to the team's established blue and papaya racing colors.
The reveal event was a celebration, but also an opportunity for the team to talk about the season to come. "In terms of performance expectations, we remain realistic for the short term," said Stella, suggesting a surprising lack confidence in the new car.
He expressed concerns around the car's current specification, while noting that new developments would play a major role in performance. "There's some other areas of the car that will be improved by developments in the early stage of the season," said Stella, adding "So we are happy, not entirely happy for what is the launch car, but optimistic that we should take a good step soon."
McLaren drivers Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris were joined by CEO Zak Brown and team principal Andreas Stella at the launch. YouTube/McLaren
Stella indicated his position was due to the team's awareness it has left performance on the table. "There's some areas in which we kind of realized a little late in development, some really strong directions," said Stella, noting the team hopes to have serious upgrades in place by the fourth race of the season.
It's a concerning attitude to display at the car's launch event, suggesting Stella may be preparing his excuses for testing and races to come. Typically, teams are overwhelmingly positive at launch events. The words "realistic" and "optimistic" don't exactly scream faith and conviction on the part of the new team boss. Normally, teams talk up their coming upgrade packages after a disappointing first race or three, not at the launch event.
As for the drivers, Lando Norris expressed his belief in McLaren's long-term plans to march to the front. "I am probably not the most patient guy in the world," Norris told the BBC, but noted that his excitement about the team's potential helped him find the "little bit of patience I need to have." He noted the team hopes to fight for fourth place in the constructor's championship, after finishing fifth last year behind Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, and Alpine.
Piastri, on the other hand, comes into the team as a rookie to F1. While McLaren hasn't been fighting for victories of late, scoring a position at the high-performing team is an absolute coup for a first-time driver. "To call this my first F1 car going to be pretty special," said Piastri.
McLaren's reluctance to back its new car as a potential winner is a shame. At the same time, it's perhaps a hangover from the last few seasons where the team has often been thereabouts, but not quite there. The real pace of the car will be revealed soon enough in testing, however, and then we'll know just what the team can hope for in 2023.
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