McLaren Eyes Potential Rivals After Promising Start at Bahrain GP

Despite Max Verstappen's dominance, McLaren's team principal Andrea Stella sees Ferrari and Mercedes as attainable targets for the MCL38.


By Ben Bush
Published on March 6, 2024

Lando Norris Mclaren MCL38 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix
Lando Norris, Mclaren MCL38 – 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

Following strong performances from Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri in the 2024 Bahrain GP, McLaren emerged as a key competitor in the intense battle trailing Red Bull in the season’s opening race.

Stella highlighted McLaren’s significant progress, noting a 1.8-second improvement in qualifying lap time over the previous year at Bahrain, thanks to a substantial upgrade strategy in 2023 and consistent regulations heading into 2024.

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Despite overall advancements across the board, McLaren has positioned itself as a formidable contender from the outset, contrasting with their late-season surge last year. While acknowledging the reigning World Champion remains out of reach for now, Stella is optimistic about competing with Mercedes and Ferrari for the title of ‘best of the rest,’ and potentially challenging Red Bull’s Sergio Perez as the season progresses.

“At the moment that gap to Max, it’s not necessarily like the main parameter we look at,” Stella explained to media in Bahrain.

“I’m looking more at the gap to Merc and Ferrari, which seem to be within reach, let’s say.

“Let’s see where we will be in Jeddah, that should be a more favourable circuit layout for our car, and I think having seen Bahrain and Jeddah, then we will make we will have a proper assessment in terms of our competitiveness.

“Bahrain was a very strong race for Red Bull, even in 2023. They seemed to capitalise on the characteristics of their car.

“Last year, they were pretty much the only car that was able to use to softs in the race and, this year, they were once again the car that was able to use two softs in the race because they could control the degradation.

“So because it’s a different strategy, different tyre usage, at the moment, I’m not looking really at Max. If anything, Perez could be the next.

“Like, we have the Merc, then the Ferrari, then Perez, then Max. There are some steps before we think about the victory, but those steps are not too big, let’s say, which is an encouraging aspect that we take away with us from this weekend.”

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About The Author

Chief Editor

Ben Bush

Ben is our chief editor specialising in F1 from the 1990s to the modern era. Ben has been following Formula 1 since 1986 and is an avid researcher who loves understanding the technology that makes it one of the most exciting motorsport on the planet. He listens to podcasts about F1 on a daily basis, and enjoys reading books from the inspirational Adrian Newey to former F1 drivers.

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