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McLaren can ‘reach Red Bull’ within 12 months, insists Andrea Stella
F1 Sport

McLaren can ‘reach Red Bull’ within 12 months, insists Andrea Stella

The McLaren team principal, Andrea Stella, believes his team may catch Red Bull within a year after they returned an unexpectedly strong result at the Chinese Grand Prix, with Britain’s Lando Norris taking second place.

The race was won by Max Verstappen, with another commanding drive from pole to flag and he almost certainly will not be caught on his way to a fourth consecutive title. He now leads his Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez by 25 points after five meetings and has already won four of those five grands prix.

In Shanghai however, it was Norris and McLaren who caught the eye. They had expected to struggle badly through the preponderance of slow speed corners at the circuit but instead showed a remarkable turn of pace with the Briton delivering an exceptional drive to take second. He comfortably outpaced the two Ferraris and most impressively was more than a match for Pérez, who was third.

McLaren have made enormous strides in the past 12 months. In 2023 they opened the season with a car that was woefully slow. However a series of upgrades mid-season led them to return nine podiums in the second half of the campaign, form they have carried into 2024.

While McLaren were certainly assisted then by the world champions ceasing development of their 2023 car early, Stella believes there is no reason McLaren cannot make similar improvements and close the gap again after Red Bull improved their car over the winter.

“We lost some ground because we gained so much ground before while they were not developing,” he said. “That’s why we have to look at things over the long period and over that long period we are on a strong trajectory.

“If we keep this strong trajectory for the next 12 months, why not? We may reach Red Bull.”

McLaren are third in the constructors’ championship, well in front of Mercedes and will bring their first major upgrades of the season to the next round in Miami. If they secure a similar step forward to that made in 2023 they could be Red Bull’s closest challengers.

Stella also paid tribute to Norris, who drove superbly to take his second podium of the season. He had to manage his tyres for a long stint at the end while maintaining enough pace to keep Pérez behind him, a feat Stella maintained demonstrated that Norris was very much on his way to becoming the complete package as a driver.

“In the race he seems to be becoming more and more consistent and more and more capable of understanding what is going on,” he said. “What we call the race-craft seems to be becoming larger and larger and more and more accurate.

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“He has done a really good job on working on the opportunities with his engineers and the support of the factory to make some small adaptations to be able to exploit the potential of the car to a greater extent. This is credit to him.”

Norris, who has yet to take his first win in F1, also felt his team were on course to finally putting him in a position to take the flag.

“I have to be happy with the job I’m doing and one day, I think it’s coming,” he said. “I am not overconfident in saying it. I think we can get a win this year. It is going to be difficult, we have a lot of work to do but we’re working hard.”

Source: theguardian.com