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McLaren teases Spanish GP upgrades as F1 wins on pure pace out of reach still

Andrea Stella has teased McLaren upgrades for the Spanish Grand Prix as the team aims to establish itself as a challenger for race victories at every Formula 1 event.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38

The Woking-based outfit has cemented its place as a consistent podium challenger this season having made rapid progress following a drastic overhaul of its management team last March, where then-technical director James Key departed following a nightmare start to the 2023 campaign.

A large step forward with an upgrade to its MCL60 challenger in Austria saw Lando Norris and then Oscar Piastri - who only took on the new parts at Silverstone - emerge as threats to Red Bull at a number of races for the remainder of the season, underlined by the Australian taking victory in the Qatar Grand Prix sprint race.

That form has ramped up into the new term, with Norris securing a long-awaited maiden F1 victory in Miami, as well as challenging Max Verstappen at Imola and Canada either side of Oscar Piastri's second-place finish in Monaco.

Norris had led convincingly before the first safety car intervention at Montreal but had to settle for second at the chequered flag and, despite holding off George Russell and Lewis Hamilton to keep second, the tone from McLaren post-race indicated that it had a slower car than Mercedes' upgraded W15.

Asked by Motorsport.com whether it was a good sign that there was disappointment in finishing runner-up given the position of the team 12 months ago, team boss Stella replied: "This sort of little disappointment for a victory that was possible is actually a testament to the fact that the team has come a long way and we are now regular podium contenders or at times even victory contenders.

"At the same time, I look at the positives, and there are many. Certainly the team has been consistent in being competitive, despite the variation of track, conditions and so on, which is something that you never can take for granted.

"You don't gain any credit because you've been like this in the past, you know, every race weekend, you have to gain your money.

"So ultimately, we ideally should make the car a little bit faster, and then be in condition to chase the victory independent of the conditions on track or the track characteristics because we have to say that when we were in dry conditions, Mercedes was faster than us.

"So we're still not in a position where we can gain the victory out of outright performance."

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

With Mercedes' improvements underlining the mission facing McLaren, Stella teased the team's own upgrades for the next race in Spain and beyond.

"For the coming races, we will have some upgrades, but they won't be a single kind of big upgrade like we have seen over the last 12 months.

"This is more some individual components where we found a little bit of performance and rather than waiting to deploy everything together once ready we take it track side.

"So I won't say what but we will see some new stuff coming over the few coming races."

The recent success story has been a welcome remedy for over a decade of struggles for McLaren, who, other than a victory for Daniel Ricciardo at Monza three years ago, endured a chastening period with Honda and a slight improvement with Renault, bookended by occasional podium finishes with Mercedes.

On the feeling within the workforce given the current purple patch, Stella explained: "Confidence growing in team?

"Well, the confidence grows, but you don't do very much with the confidence.

"Ultimately, the confidence needs to help design new parts. If anything, because you're confident, because you are more energised, you kind of work even harder, because you enjoy these results and you want to see more.

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren F1 Team, congratulate each other

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren F1 Team, congratulate each other

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

"So it's more than a motivational element. But ultimately, you can be competitive and you can be consistently competitive if you do work of good quality - the quality of the parts we design, the robustness of the operations, the consistency of the driving.

"The confidence element helps in gaining the energy that you need to put behind these success factors and honestly, especially I would say, if we think of the pitstop crew, the drivers... every athlete that's in a confident space performs better.

"But like I say, you don't rely on confidence - you will rely on the good work and that's the kind of mindset that we need to keep at McLaren."

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