The first and second stages of a three-step upgrade to change “pretty much every single aerodynamic part on the car” appears to have turned around McLaren’s poor start to the season.
Since the first updates arrived in Austria, Lando Norris has qualified inside the top four for the three GPs and finished runner-up to Max Verstappen at Silverstone and last weekend at the Hungaroring.
However, McLaren team boss Andrea Stella has cautioned that the sprint race weekend at the Belgian venue may not witness a continuation of their recent success. This is because the track’s reputation as a high-speed circuit fails to acknowledge the various factors that contribute to lap time improvement.
The key to a strong performance at Spa, according to him, are three crucial low-speed corners. Nevertheless, McLaren’s recent advancements have primarily focused on enhancing medium- to high-speed turns.
Stella mentioned that although Spa is often referred to as a high-speed track, the fastest corner, corner 10 [Pouhon], remains level during qualifying.
“There’s a lot of lap time in corner one [La Source] which is [50mph], in corner eight [Les Combes] which is [60mph] and in the last chicane, which is [55mph].
I need to be cautious about repeating myself, but I approach this situation with care because currently, we are experiencing time loss in these three areas. Therefore, I believe that is our current position.
“It will also be a sprint race. Therefore, besides sheer performance, the speed at which you adjust your car to meet the track’s requirements will be crucial.”
Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60
Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images
The Spa track is known for being quite challenging to navigate, particularly when it comes to understanding certain aspects like ride heights. For example, it’s important to avoid setting your ride heights too low at Eau Rouge, as this could potentially cause issues underneath the car.
The speed at which you can prepare your car can have an impact on the overall performance for the entire week.
The last segment of its significant development package was planned to take place in Budapest, but it was ultimately postponed due to longer design and production schedules. There is a possibility that it will make its first appearance this weekend at Spa.
While McLaren is confident that its upgrades have generated more load and in turn improved tyre management, Norris reckons the MCL60 is still not suited to his driving style at low speeds.
He expressed dissatisfaction with the car’s handling, stating that it falls short of his expectations. If asked about his ideal car, he believes it is quite distant from what he desires.
“It’s a combination of targeting slow-speed corners and load, and at the same time handling.
“If we can enhance both aspects simultaneously, that would be a significant stride towards our goal, eliminating any existing vulnerabilities and bolstering our overall strength.”