2022 was a step backwards for McLaren. The team fell behind Alpine to fifth place in the World Championship. Since the new infrastructure is still a long time coming, McLaren is not making any big noises before the new season. The MCL60 for the 2023 Formula 1 season is a logical further development of the previous year's model.
The past season was not to McLaren's taste. Alpine pushed the traditional racing team from Woking to fifth place. In addition, the number of points was significantly lower. Instead of 275 points, McLaren only scored 159 points. And for 2023 there is also a threat of competition from behind. Aston Martin is jostling with the arrival of Fernando Alonso and a host of top engineers.
Against this background, McLaren will not be able to afford to start the season sluggishly like in 2022 and eliminate weaknesses in the vehicle with several major upgrades. The new car should be better from the start. "We want to start on a better level," says spearhead Lando Norris.
McLaren needs a more stable platform for continuous development. That hope is tied to the new MCL60. The number in the abbreviation is due to an anniversary. The racing team is celebrating its 60th birthday. The racing team was founded in 1963. The first Formula 1 Grand Prix was contested three years later in Monte Carlo.
Fourth place is the goal for the season
The new team boss proclaims fourth place as the goal for the season. "We have to remain realistic. The big three should continue to be in front. We did a good job over the winter. I'm sure that there is potential in this car. We'll release some things at the start of the season, others through development," says Andrea Stella. McLaren wants to gain more speed with early updates in the new season.
With the MCL60, the technical team led by James Key is staying on the path it took after the rumbling start in 2022. Pull rods are also installed on the front axle. Springs and dampers sit low in the front end. This lowers the center of gravity of the vehicle. However, the deep installation complicates conversions of the setup. The mechanics need "little fingers" to get to the elements. McLaren opted for struts again on the rear axle. The pushrod comes with more volume in the middle, but makes life easier on the high diffuser.
The nose and front wing suggest a moderate further development of the front end. You can't get as much lap time there as in the rear areas of the car. The engineers focused on the sidepods, the underbody and the rear. McLaren had already started emulating Red Bull and Ferrari in 2023.
Ferrari and Red Bull as role models
The side box inlet with a pronounced lower lip was copied from the class leader.McLaren takes this philosophy to the next level with the MCL60 by sharply pointing the opening backwards. In general, the entrance also appears narrower. The undercut underneath is very pronounced. A trend can be seen here with the 2023 cars. Alfa-Sauber, Williams and Alpha Tauri are also pursuing similar solutions.
A long ramp with a slight indentation runs on the top of the side box. McLaren has modulated the edge on the outside more for this. The air is directed towards the edge of the underbody and the diffuser roof via the slide-shaped ramp. The shape of the sidepod suggests that McLaren positioned the radiators underneath differently.
Large areas of cooling fins are embedded in the side box and engine cover. You could rest an arm on the central area of the hood. The predecessor already had this almost horizontal bulge in a similar form. A lot of work has certainly gone into the construction of the underbody. The new rules with edges raised by 1.5 centimeters cost around half a second on paper.
MCL60 developed in Cologne
McLaren had to find more downforce in proportion and make their car more efficient on top of that. Top speed was not a strength of the MCL36. This has to get better in 2023. A slightly more powerful Mercedes engine would obviously help in that regard. But the engineers also had to work on drag. McLaren continues to support the rear wing on a stilt.
The coloring has only changed in details. The front wing is no longer spray-painted, but the rear wing is papaya orange. In general, the bare carbon fiber shines through on many vehicle surfaces. That saves kilos. McLaren had not reached the weight limit last year.
The engineers have to live with a truck. After some delays, the new development facilities – wind tunnel and simulator – will probably not be ready until this year. "Everything should be ready in the summer," says McLaren boss Zak Brown. This means that parts of the 2024 car will be built in the new wind tunnel, and the 2025 McLaren will only be built there.
Until then, the technical team will have to keep moving at Toyota in Cologne. "Unfortunately, that's inefficient for cost reasons," Brown complains. And: The wind tunnel there does not meet the modern standards in Formula 1. It would therefore be presumptuous to target the top teams.
Norris vs. Piastri
The drivers should provide one or the other highlight. Lando Norris is entering his fifth McLaren season. The engineers will attach even greater importance to his words. The 23-year-old, who is still under contract up to and including 2025, is maturing into a leader. "I certainly have more responsibility. With my knowledge and experience, I want to help us make progress. I also expect the next step from myself.Hopefully the new car suits my driving style better." Norris would like oversteer instead of understeer.
With Oscar Piastri he has a highly decorated rookie next to him. "He's there to drive me forward and to push the team," says Norris. Piastri is at least left out. "The team has experience with new drivers. They eventually pulled Lando up into Formula 1 and integrated it well. I'm hungry after a year on the bench. But I also know that I have to shake off some rust, at least in the first few races. Any good result would be a welcome bonus."
Norris and Piastri seem to get along well. "He's a down to earth guy. I like that," says the team leader. McLaren team boss Andrea Stella already praises his rookie in high tones. "Oscar is not one who says many words. But he says the right things. Oscar is a very demanding pilot. But in a positive way."