McLaren team principal Andrea Stella has no concerns about introducing an upgrade during a sprint weekend at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix but warns it won’t be a game changer.
McLaren will bring the first major update to its 2023 car to Baku, after admitting it was unhappy with the launch specification of the MCL60. However, that weekend will feature just one free practice session before qualifying on Friday evening — regardless of whether the format changes — with cars in parc ferme conditions and therefore any upgrade needing to work immediately, but Stella is confident there is no risk involved.
“If there’s no anomalous behaviors, then it’s relatively easy because in modern Formula 1 you have the data and you can read the aerodynamic performance through the forces that you measure and through the pressure map around the car that you measure to the dozens of pressure sensors,” Stella said. “So we are not too worried in terms of assessing whether it’s possible or not, unless there are some anomalies. But so far I have to say that the cars are proving to be correlating well with the development. That’s why we decided to introduce it, even if it’s a sprint race.”
McLaren heads to Baku in fifth place in the constructors’ championship after picking up its first points of the season in Melbourne, but Stella says it’s a jump up the order that the team is aware it lucked into as Lando Norris was classified sixth and Oscar Piastri eighth.
“We don’t get carried away — we know it was a very eventful race. It’s good to score points after we have had some difficult races at the start of the season in which we were in contention to score points but for various reasons, we couldn’t. It’s good now to come off these races with some good points.
“We know that in Baku we start another step of this season by starting to have some upgrades on the car. We know it is not going to be a game changer, but it will be a first step for what we hope will be multiple upgrades. We hope we’ll be in contention to fight for points in the future on merit.”