McLaren now “finding performance quicker” after emulating Red Bull’s design

2023 British Grand Prix

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McLaren admit their transformative upgrade for the MCL60 was inspired by Red Bull’s RB19 and say they are finding more performance gains after following their rivals’ lead.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the British GP, while McLaren’s Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both took their best results of the season in second and fourth respectively, having qualified second and third.

McLaren introduced the first stage of its upgrade a week earlier in Austria, on Norris’ car only, before bringing further parts for both cars at Silverstone. This was their first significant performance upgrade of 2023 so far.

The MCL60 lagged off the pace when it was introduced, which led to the departure of James Key as technical director and a reorganisation of the division he previously headed up. McLaren has made major appointments to its technical team, some of which will not arrive until next year, but a change in development direction has already begun to take effect.

The Red Bull RB19 remains unbeaten so far this year
The team brought a floor upgrade in Baku as proof of concept for the direction they were taking with future updates. “That was just an upgrade from a conceptual point of view,” McLaren team principal Andrea Stella told media including RaceFans at Silverstone. “It brought some lap time, but it was less than potentially a couple of tenths.”

That was followed by the major overhaul which started to arrive at the Red Bull Ring. “The step we have made with Austria is potentially an even bigger conceptual step than Baku compared to the launch car,” said Stella.

This shift has opened new avenues for the team to add performance to its car. “The good thing is that all the aerodynamic department, and in general the engineers at McLaren, have kind of accelerated this development,” Stella explained. “And now we are finding directions and we are finding performance quicker than we were in a condition to do before.”

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McLaren aren’t the only team to have drawn inspiration from Red Bull’s design philosophy, or indeed that of other rivals. “Every team takes inspiration from any other team, teams are equipped to try and absorb IP [intellectual property] from looking at the photos, from looking at the cars on display on Friday.”

Updated MCL60 bears clear similarities to Red Bull’s car
But while teams “do take inspiration from the other cars”, Stella pointed out that adopting proven design ideas from another design won’t necessarily make their car quicker unless they understand how it works and can be applied to their existing design.

“Taking inspiration or even looking at a photo doesn’t mean that you copy the geometry, you install it in your CFD runs – in the computer simulation or in the wind tunnel – and the car lights up in terms of downforce,” said Stella. “Normally what happens, it [downforce] goes down because your car is already optimised around what you have done up to that point.

“So the key element is understanding that some concepts have more potential that will allow you to develop faster and for longer. And here is where you need to have the right people at the right place.”

The staff member Stella singled out for praise in delivering their latest upgrade has a Red Bull past – though he was last at Milton Keynes almost a decade ago. Aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou was previously at McLaren until 2006, when he left along with star designer Adrian Newey.

While Newey remained at Red Bull, Prodromou rejoined McLaren in late 2014. During their technical reshuffle earlier this year, when the team also secured the services of Red Bull’s Rob Marshall from next year, Prodromou moved into the role of technical director of aerodynamics.

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“I would like to mention one name here, Peter Prodromou, he’s leading the aerodynamic development at McLaren and he’s doing an exceptional job in terms of setting the conceptual direction, but also having organised and having inspired the entire dynamic group,” said Stella. “So really well done to Peter.”

However Stella admitted McLaren still have a long way to go to match the dominant performance Red Bull have produced since the current technical regulations were introduced. “The reality is that when you look, for instance, at the floor of Red Bull in Monaco, you see that there’s another step,” he noted. “So there’s again, even in this area, [more] work to do.”

After the two MCL60s took up their places on the grid ahead of Sunday’s race, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted he took the opportunity to look them over.

“It’s a very similar concept,” he said. “I was looking at the car on the grid, it’s the first time we’ve really seen it this year, and you can see the philosophy they’ve borrowed is very similar. So they’ve chosen obviously a similar path.”

Such similarities are “always” a compliment to his team’s work,” said Horner. “It’s flattering, isn’t it?”

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2023 British Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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29 comments on “McLaren now “finding performance quicker” after emulating Red Bull’s design”

  1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    13th July 2023, 9:42

    If this continues Hamilton will be wanting to go back to McLaren!

    1. Not one mention of Lewis in this article yet his detractors find a way to connect him to the article. Rent free anyone?

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        13th July 2023, 15:25

        No detracting on my part. I’m a big Lewis fan. What’s so bad with suggesting he might want to drive for McLaren?

        1. Stephen Taylor
          13th July 2023, 18:33

          In place of who? Norris and Piastri are just fine!

          1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            13th July 2023, 18:37

            Yeah not gonna happen!

      2. This is an example of people being negative even when there’s no reason to.

        I preferred hamilton at mclaren, but yes, the current mclaren drivers are doing well.

      3. As in calling people detractors when they’re not.

      4. Oh the irony

    2. Abies de Wet
      13th July 2023, 12:39

      Hell No !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. Career opportunities at the Beer Can Regatta

  2. Yellow Baron
    13th July 2023, 9:59

    So copying redbull really does seems to be the best way to move up the grid. However copying the floor must be tricky. They won’t catch redbull like this but Atleast they’re the points now.

  3. Copying RB as the acknowledged best way to succes is amusing in a way, but on balance I would not like to see F1 become a series where the order of teams is determined by who can copy the #1 team the best.

    Both because this – almost by definition – locks in the advantage of the #1 team, but also since it disincentivizes innovation.

    1. There’s always one best concept and so far it looks like RBR has it. And just because you follow a concept another team is using doesn’t mean it’s impossible to out develop them. Also, what Newey has done isn’t just the aero. As usual, he’s made some incredibly daring suspension choices among other brilliant package integrations.

    2. I disagree, RedBull may have come up with the best way to do x, but from that point on the whole development race starts again. McLaren, (or any team) might find a better way to get speed out of it by going in a different direction to RedBull. All RedBull have is a head start in that race.
      The first petrol powered ICU was patented in 1794 and hundreds of years later car companies are still refining it and improving their designs based on advances their competitors make. It’s the same in just about all facets of life.

  4. I can’t see a quote from Stella saying that the upgrade was inspired by the RB19, and the bodywork is quite different between the two, so is it actually a “copy” in any sense?

    1. It’s likely the floor, copied after the crane operator at Monaco obligingly held Perez’s car up for all to see. Specifically, how to stall the flow in the diffuser when the DRS is operated. Perhaps also achieving stall at higher speeds, that would be trickier however.

    2. He’s probably responding to a question about the similarities with the Red Bull car

  5. Julio Herrera (@)
    13th July 2023, 13:10

    I really like the design of the car.

  6. It’s probably only Toto’s ego avoiding a rb19 copy.
    But even he is considering the copycat way.
    As it always was and will be in F1.

  7. Sergey Martyn
    13th July 2023, 17:32

    So the future competition is restricted to how other teams can emulate holy Adrian Newey design?
    This is a real problem right now – if there is one genius and the performance of other teams depends on how well or how close they can emulate his design, the whole idea of F1 as a pinnacle of motorsport just goes down the drain.
    And I’m not talking about about crazy 70’s etc. stuff like say six-wheelers but!
    THERE IS a fundamental problem with all those current crazy FIA restrictions – they are so tight that only one genius like Newey can produce winning concepts.
    And these Liberty clowns talk about entertainment…
    What’s so entertaining about of all these processions and DRS trains?
    The only restrictions in the development of motorsport are safety and the engine displacement – there was a golden era back at the dawn of turbo era – make it 3 liters atmospheric or 1.5 turbo. That’s all folks! Please don’t feed us with concentration camp rules about car development – these poor chariots look pathetically the same – this is not show which Liberty Media craved for.

    1. It’s a fallacy that cars can’t out develop RBR if they follow its general design principle. If they had a man of Newey’s talent who does a lot more than aero: the entire package’s design is all his and full of daring choices like the new suspension on this year’s car.

      Basically RBR has the Max of design and until he gets bored or quits, teams need to be looking for a generational engineering talent like him. One is out there. The teams just need to do a better job of finding one. After all, Newey was already debuting ground changing aero and packaging right out of the box in his early 20s.

      1. that teams can’t out develop*

      2. True, the one ferrari had in the 2000s, rory byrne or something, was good too, there should be some out there and the top teams don’t certainly lack money for that.

    2. The problem is that Adian Newey is a master groundeffect designer with experience of building groundeffect cars in the 1980s and of those in F1 there aren’t many who can say that. Most teams have very good aero designers (Mercedes probaly the best) but groundeffects is just a tad difference.
      Ferrari had also a good design but was nerfed by raising the floor level (because of Mercedes) rules which i knew was a easy Red Bull advance as they were using a raised floor for years ….

      So if they remove that rule i think ferrari would do much beter….

  8. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    13th July 2023, 18:18

    The cost cap has made it impossible for teams to innovate with multiple designs although only a few teams have the resources to do it.

    What is left is getting best bang for buck. It is no accident that passenger jet planes all look more or less the same.

    1. I’m sorry, but innovation isn’t solely based on how much money you can spend and we’ve seen time and again that unlimited budgets lead to similar results anyway. A guy like Newey or Brawn decimating inferior designers regardless. So, now you’ve got teams not only losing but hemorrhaging money with nothing to show for it. Not sure how much bigger of a sample size critics like you require than all of F1 history.

      1. Yes, the last few years before the cost cap we had 3 competitive teams at best and in terms of winning titles, ferrari underdelivered compared to red bull and merc, since ferrari had a higher budget than them, showing that money is helpful but not the only important factor.

  9. Electroball76
    14th July 2023, 9:34

    Like many things, following the best designs & procedures and hiring the best people can sometimes create more success. F1’s long season and 2-car teams make any “giant killing” an unlikely prospect, but not impossible.

  10. Despite lagging behind everyone else. I still suspect Mercedes will be the first team to turn up to a race with the same pace as a red bull, probably in 2024.

Comments are closed.