Formula 1

Reviewing the resurgence of McLaren, what’s to come in 2024

4 Mins read
Credit: McLaren Media Centre

Of the storylines that emerged in the 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, McLaren F1 Team’s development journey and subsequent resurgence as a podium-contending team is one of this year’s most compelling. 

McLaren had a rocky start to their 2023 season, with early performances indicating that they were in the back half of the field pace-wise. The team went without points for five of the first eight race weekends of the season, with the high-attrition Australian Grand Prix being their best performance before the start of the European leg. 

The Austrian Grand Prix was a major turning point for the team, and the first instance in which we saw their potential to make a comeback from a technical standpoint. McLaren brought a significant upgrade to the floor and side pods of Lando Norris’ MCL60. Norris went on to finish in fourth place, marking the team’s best result of the season up until that point. 

More upgrades came down the pipeline for both cars, and with it came back-to-back podiums for Norris and fourth and fifth place finishes for Oscar Piastri at Silverstone Circuit and the Hungaroring

McLaren’s successful technical developments not only brought the team back into points contention, but also pushed their rookie driver Piastri into the spotlight. 

The Japanese Grand Prix marked Piastri’s first podium in Formula 1 and saw both drivers qualify and finish in the top three. The weekend following, however, would become the Australian rookie’s best showing of the season. Piastri secured an unlikely sprint win, holding off a charging Max Verstappen for the 19 lap race, and achieved second place in Sunday’s Grand Prix. 

Though the team couldn’t quite grasp a Grand Prix win by the season’s end, Norris’ late-season drive at Interlagos Circuit proved that they weren’t far off. His pursuit of race leader Verstappen in the opening stages of the race was particularly impressive, as posing a challenge to the dominant Red Bull from behind seemed near impossible until that point. The British driver may have had to settle for second, but confidence in the team’s winning potential was at a season-high. 

By the season closer in Abu Dhabi, McLaren had claimed fourth place in the constructor’s championship. This was a huge step up from early-season rankings, which saw them consistently behind Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team and close in performance to BWT Alpine F1 Team

Alpine appeared to have the upper hand on McLaren in the first races of the year, finishing in the minor points on a more consistent basis. Once McLaren’s upgrades were implemented, however, they quickly began to outscore the French team and built up a hefty lead. 

McLaren’s main competition in the standings was Aston Martin. Aston Martin’s season trend differed greatly to that of McLaren’s, as the team had a strong start and plateau later in the season— in the end, McLaren was able to catch up and overtake the Silverstone-based team in the season’s final races. 

In a press release following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella said he attributes the team’s improvement and achievements through 2023 the season to the efforts of every team member, and that their 2023 campaign will serve as a “strong foundation” for next year. 

“It has been an amazing turnaround which was made possible by everybody’s hard work. To finish fourth in the Championship with nine podiums, achieve a victory in the Sprint race, three more podiums in the Sprint race, two pole positions in the Sprint Shootout, and deliver the fastest pit stop in history is a great achievement for the team. 

“This is a strong foundation for the future, and we can’t wait to confirm this next season. Thanks to our fans, sponsors and partners that have been so supportive and enthusiastic. We are on this journey together and we look forward to the next phase.”

Credit: McLaren Media Centre

What’s next for McLaren in 2024?

Confidence is at a high for McLaren going into the 2024 season, with strong drivers in their line-up, a recent change in leadership that has had a positive impact and continued momentum on the development front. 

Norris and Piastri will continue with McLaren in 2024, a pairing that has proven to be one of the grid’s most exciting. Norris added another seven podiums to his career tally and ended up finishing ahead of a Ferrari and Mercedes in the Driver’s Championship. 2023 saw Norris fulfill the role of being McLaren’s more experienced driver, and he was able to assert himself as such with a slew of consistent performances. 

Piastri delivered on the high expectations placed on him coming into his rookie year and found his footing quickly. He matched and outperformed Norris on several occasions, and became acclimated to circuits that were brand new to him with ease. With a year of experience now under his belt, it is expected that he will continue to improve and become even more competitive. 

2023 saw leadership in the team change hands, with Andrea Stella entering the Team Principal position. When asked about Stella’s influence on the team, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown gave him considerable praise. 

 “Andrea has done a fantastic job— he’s a tremendous leader. He’s a great communicator, he empowers the team, he listens, he gives great direction— I can’t say enough great things about him. 

“The proof is in the pudding. Look at what he inherited at the start of the year, which was kind of the ninth-quickest car. We’ve been in the second half of the year kind of the second-, third-quickest car, [scoring] a pole, lots of podiums, so it’s credit to Andrea and everyone in the racing team. It’s a team effort, which is great to see.”

Whether or not McLaren will be a front-running team will depend largely on what the rest of the grid has to offer, especially with the narrow margins we’ve seen between cars weekend after weekend. 2024 is set to be a continuation of what the team has built up through this year, and if they can deliver on next year’s car, there is no doubt that they will be a team to watch. 

Credit: McLaren Media Centre
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Formula 1 Writer and Student Journalist based in Florida, U.S.A.
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