McLaren’s chief executive officer Zak Brown says Alpine is “definitely beatable” based on his team’s performance in last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.Lando Norris‘ car at the Red Bull Ring. He qualified fourth, only 0.267 seconds off pole, and followed that up with third in qualifying for the sprint race.
Although a poor start meant Norris plunged to 10th on lap one of the sprint race, and he only made back one place while Alpine’s Esteban Ocon finished seventh, the grand prix was much more rewarding for the team. Norris finished fourth to cut McLaren’s gap to fifth-placed Alpine in the constructors’ standings as they scored a single point with Pierre Gasly in tenth place.
That has given Brown confidence McLaren can beat Alpine, who it lost fourth place in the championship to last year. “I think they’re definitely beatable,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans.
“It’s going to be tough. I think they’ve got a fast race car and two drivers that have the ability to run at the front. And I’m sure they’ve got upgrades coming.”
Brown said the team has made clear progress since new team principal Andrea Stella reorganised the operation earlier this year. “When we look at our development curve from when Andrea restructured, moved some people around, bringing in some new people – some of which have started, some that haven’t – the development rate has been much better than we saw last year,” Brown to media including RaceFans.
“I think Austria was a great validation that we thought we’d be pretty strong. Now we need to make sure that continues on these other races and that it wasn’t track-specific.”
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The team is in the process of rolling out a major upgrade over three consecutive races. “We’ve got a lot more development coming,” said Brown. “I wouldn’t want to predict where we’ll be, our desires are to be mingling it up with the top four teams like we did this weekend.
“Obviously there’s a big points gap with the top four teams, so whether we can catch that is probably a tall order. I think the battle with Alpine and others for fifth is very much on, but I hope that we continue with this development rate and we have more weekends like we had this weekend where we’re playing with the top four teams on a pure pace basis.”
The Austrian GP was the third time in nine rounds that the highest-placed McLaren finished further up the order on Sunday than the highest-placed Alpine. McLaren took nine points off Alpine in Austria, and the two are now separated by just 18.
McLaren will continue to press on with its upgrade plan over the coming races. “We’ll have Oscar [Piastri]’s car where Lando’s was this weekend. Lando will have some some further upgrades. And then we do have, as all the teams do, upgrades throughout the year. One more significant upgrade to come in later in the year.
“So I feel like we’re in the race with Alpine now and I think we can’t make any mistakes, we’ve got to have a good, reliable car, get our pit stop right, get our launches right, not have any unlucky incidents, which is part of racing. But I think the fight’s definitely on with Alpine.”
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2023 Austrian Grand Prix
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