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McLaren 2023 Season Review: A Comeback Story

McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri after a double podium finish at the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix (Photo: Getty Images)

McLaren’s 2023 season was a bumpy road.

The Woking based team showed it was never too late to turn things around for the better. Their comeback story was one of the main headlines from last year.

They ended fourth on the Constructors Standings with an incredible amount of 302 points. Not even the most optimistic McLaren fan would have predicted that at the start of the season.

Their comeback was a long process.

At the start of the season, McLaren did not try to hide their issues with the car. The MCL60, named in honor of McLaren’s 60th anniversary, was not a good car as it had gone down the wrong development path. McLaren’s team principal, Andrea Stella, commented on the car at its launch event.

“There are some other areas of the cars that we helped by developments in the early stage of the season,” Stella said. “So we are happy, not entirely happy, for what is the launch car, but optimistic that it should take a good step soon.”

So with their feet on the ground with a cautious sense of optimism, McLaren got to the first race of the season. As warned, the Bahrain Grand Prix was a painful watch for the fans, confirming that the MCL60 was not going to cooperate, at least not for the first races of the season.

Qualifying was a struggle for Lando Norris, who placed P11, and Oscar Piastri in P18.

Neither of them made the top 10. When they got to the race, it got even worse as Piastri’s first race was cut short when an electrical failure forced him to retire after just 15 laps.

On the other hand, Norris, on his side, had a pressure leak, this issue resulting in six pit stops and making him drop to last place, getting lapped two times by the other cars.

The papaya team did not score points until the third race of the season. After the chaotic Australian Grand Prix, Norris finished P6 while Piastri finished eighth at his home race. By almost the half of the season, both drivers had scored just 29 points. But that was about to change as they arrived to the team’s home Grand Prix.

McLaren had made some changes behind the scenes. They released their Technical Director, James Key, resulting in Peter Prodromou moving to the role of Technical Director, Aerodynamics, to lead the whole aero function of the car.

So, with a new Chrome livery, updates, and high expectations, McLaren finally made its comeback. They made the headlines since Saturday after Norris and Piastri qualified P2 and P3, just behind the two-time and reigning World Champion Max Verstappen. Their return to the top positions was solidified on Sunday, where Piastri crossed the line P4 and Norris claimed an impressive second place finish.

Lando Norris, McLaren, and Oscar Piastri, McLaren, celebrate after Qualifying (Photo: McLaren)

McLaren was officially back as they were considered the second best team just behind Red Bull. The second half of the season saw them on the podium on almost every race, even getting a Sprint win and earning crucial points for the Constructors Championship.

Lando Norris with the McLaren crew members (Photo: McLaren)

Lando Norris (Sixth in the standings, 205 points)

McLaren’s driver line-up was considered as one of the strongest on the grid but Lando Norris was the stronger performer of the duo. He outqualified his teammate 15 times and finished the year 1o8 points ahead of him. 2023 was his fifth year in F1, so he was also the most experienced driver out of the two.

Norris had some amazing performances this year, finishing seven times on the podium. During the weekend of the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix, Norris scored the most points. He finished P2 on Saturday’s sprint after taking the pole position at the Shootout and then went on to finish P2 with the fastest lap on Sunday.

It was clear that Lando had a great season, but this did not keep him from things like his unlucky DNF at the Las Vegas Grand Prix and from making small errors that cost him the pole position in some occasions. He was also his own harshest critic, as highlighted at the Qatar Grand Prix, where his teammate took the Sprint win and Norris found himself close yet so far from the victory.

“I would have had the speed here to be on pole twice and I would have had the chance to win at least one race. It kills me so much because I know those opportunities were all in front of me but I didn’t make anything of it,” Norris said to the media after the Sprint. “For me, this is a weekend of missed opportunities. Of course I shouldn’t moan when I get podiums, but there’s still that nagging feeling that there could have been more here,” he continued.

Norris has proven he has the pace and the skills, with 11 podiums to his name. His awaited F1 maiden win looks closer than ever.

Oscar Piastri takes the pole at the 2023 Qatar Sprint (Photo: Steven Tee/ Motorsport Images)

Oscar Piastri (Ninth in the standings, 97 points)

A rookie and a car with development mistakes sounded like the worst case scenario for McLaren. But Oscar Piastri managed to surprise everyone who doubted him. The mistakes usually seen with a rookie were rarely made by Piastri.

Pistari managed to put his experienced teammate under pressure at times, being really close to his pace. Let us not also forget the amazing performance he delivered at the Qatar Sprint. Even though it was a tough race under extreme weather conditions and the enormous pressure of having Verstappen behind, Pistari did not let this get to him.

He kept his cool under pressure and claimed the Sprint victory in Qatar while earning his first F1 podium at the Japanese Grand Prix. Both were amazing achievements for the rookie driver.

At the end of the season, he undeniably claimed the title of  the “2023 FIA Rookie of the Year”.

Pistari’s 2023 campaign showed that he is indeed a star in the making. His performance amazed the spectators and McLaren so much that they did not waste any time and signed him until the end of the 2026 season.

The Future

McLaren will look back at their 2023 as a season of change, progress and reflection that will definitely be useful for their future seasons. The team did an amazing job with turning around things by recognizing their mistakes early and doing something about it.

2024 is looking bright for the Woking based team, who seem to be looking for a huge change for the upcoming season. This being reflected especially by the team’s Instagram page, where they deleted every post and hinted an absolute transformation.

Will McLaren manage to stay near or move to the top for the 2024 season?

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