McLaren team boss Andrea Stella reveals that McLaren expected Ferrari and Mercedes to provide a greater threat on race day at the British Grand Prix.
After introducing a radical upgrade package that inspired an immediate upturn in performance in Austria, McLaren excelled on Saturday at Silverstone to put both cars inside the top three on the starting grid.
Despite its competitive form in qualifying, Stella admits that the Woking side anticipated it would have trouble keeping the Ferraris and the Mercedes’ at bay in the race.
However, Ferrari was unable to retain pace with the two McLarens in the early stages, while Norris was able to resist Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps on a two-step harder compound of tyre to take second.
“Clearly the indications from the race are quite encouraging,” Stella said. “We were surprised ourselves in the first stint that we were able to keep our competitors, Ferrari and Mercedes, behind.
“We thought they would be a problem for us in terms of pace, so I think we have to acknowledge that the improvement seems to be genuine, even in terms of race pace.”
Following his failure to overhaul Norris for second, Hamilton lamented that McLaren was “murdering” Mercedes through the various high-speed sections of the lap.
Meanwhile, George Russell was similarly unable to mount an attack on Oscar Piastri in the sister MCL60 and also expressed how impressed he was with McLaren’s pace.
But Stella warns McLaren must acknowledge that Silverstone’s abundance of high-speed corners and the cooler conditions present on Sunday potentially accentuated its performance advantage versus its rivals.
“When it comes to whether this improvement will manifest itself in the future, even if George says that the tracks are different, actually there are significant elements of commonality between Austria and Silverstone, especially there is a high density of corners in which we know our car performs well,” he explained.
“Conditions like today, they do help because they don’t overheat the tyres, which is also something on which we have some work to do.”
After two visits to high-speed circuits, Stella says McLaren is excited about tackling the slower-speed Hungaroring to get a more accurate reading of the side’s progress.
“In a way we look forward to Hungary to check more comprehensively where we really are,” the Italian chief addressed.
“As you say, there is not as much high-speed, if anything it is a low and medium-speed dominated track and also you can have hot conditions, which again is another testing territory for us. We will see.”
McLaren’s 30-point haul from its home race has elevated it above Alpine and into fifth position in the Constructors’ Championship.
But the British outfit remains a substantial 98 points behind Ferrari in fourth place.