McLaren MCL38, 2024

Big gains from in-season upgrades unlikely in 2024, McLaren believe

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McLaren do not believe it will be possible to replicate the large steps forward they made with in-season upgrades last year.

After beginning the season off the pace, McLaren brought upgrades to their 2023 car at the British and Singapore grands prix which yielded significant performance gains. But team principal Andrea Stella does not expect they will be able to do the same this year with the MCL38, which was presented today.

“I think this year we will see that adding lap time will start to have some diminishing return, for the first time with these new regulations” he told media including RaceFans today.

“For two years we have seen the progress of especially aerodynamic development being quite steep. But now I would anticipate that towards the end of the season it will become harder for designers to be able to keep a very steep development rate.

“This is why I said before that we can be competitive if we are able to keep the development rate that we have experienced over the last 12 months.”

McLaren obscured some details in the launch images of their car released today. Stella said the images shown so far are “pretty accurate” compared to the real car and “nothing too major” has been omitted.

“These areas, rather than being specific about I will keep it relatively general, but they effectively have to do with improving the aerodynamic performance, improving the mechanical side and the interaction with tyres,” he added.

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“So in these are three key areas [there’s] a few projects that we had started, we saw that they had potential, but just we couldn’t finalise them in time to have on the launch car. So they will very likely become updates for the early part of the season.”

He said the team can add these updates to the car as soon as they are ready. “It’s not that the innovations didn’t make it, I think it’s more some development projects didn’t make it. When you embark in some development projects it’s not like, you want to, obviously you want to target them to deliver as soon as possible.

“But there’s full room in the way we have designed the car for these projects to land later on, onto the car. There’s no restrictions from a layout point of view for some of them to become available. So, it’s just a matter of the time required for projects to mature and then be ready to be delivered.

He said the team has made three major improvements over its previous car with its new design. “One was to improve aerodynamic efficiency, the second one was to improve mechanical grip and the third one was to improve the interaction with the tyres.

“Now, I wouldn’t want to give any proportion, but I would say that we’ve been able to improve on all these three areas. Even though, like I said, that the start, we see that there’s potential for further improvements in each of these three areas.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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6 comments on “Big gains from in-season upgrades unlikely in 2024, McLaren believe”

  1. Off course. Surely when they were a mess at the start of these seasons, it is far easier to find improvements, pick the low hanging fruit. And when you hit a trajectory of updates that works the team can add and add. But by now they are far closer towards the front of the grid to start with (or so we can hope?) that they would get into the terrain where finding time gains becomes harder and harder.

    1. Also: the Marlboro, West and Vodafone McLarens were all faster because they weren’t orange.

  2. Very confusing mixed messages. They don’t expect big upgrades like last year, but at the same time they have some big development items they didn’t get finished for the start of the season, and will come some time during the season, like last year…

    Am I missing something?

    1. The way I read it was that bug in-season perfomance gains were not expected. So taking that literally suggests that the big development items may not produce big performance gains.

    2. I think EffWunFan is right there – they DO have stuff coming that they expect to give them a decent amount of in season development, but are telling us straight away not to expect any jump in competitiveness during the season like we saw the last season.

    3. McLaren is on the same path as Red Bull and like Red Bull any upgrades will be very small improvements. This means without a new concept both teams will reach their platfond with this concept.

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