Having lost 10s when he was caught flatfooted by the lapped Sergio Perez under a Virtual Safety Car, Norris believes his 19s deficit to Verstappen at the chequered flag provided encouraging signs for McLaren.
However, Stella has downplayed the Brion’s declaration post-race, insisting that McLaren would require an element of fortune to pip Red Bull at any of the remaining rounds.
When asked how much he estimated Red Bull’s advantage to still be, Stella admitted via Autosport: “Still a step too far. But in fairness, at the moment, it looks [as if] Max is one step too far.
“There’s a variability of tracks left in the season, but none of these tracks has the Singapore characteristics.
“While there could be some tracks in which we could be competitive – I think Qatar should be a decent track for us – I’m afraid that the characteristics we like, they are also the characteristics where Red Bull will be just outstanding.
“So we’ll have to be realistic that we’ll need some situations to happen to be able to make the final step.”
McLaren’s 33-point haul witnessed it take another sizeable hit out of Aston Martin’s advantage in the battle for fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
The 137-point lead that Aston Martin held prior to McLaren introducing its revised car in Austria has been whittled down to only 49 with six rounds remaining in 2023.
Aston Martin has gone from scoring six podiums in the first eight races to only accruing one in the following eight rounds, prompting Stella to be “very mindful” of McLaren not replicating that slump.
Pressed on if he was wary of McLaren’s remarkable progress throughout this year stagnating, Stella responded: “Very mindful. Very, very mindful.
“And if anything, we are trying to be as rigorous as possible, from a development point of view.
“We want to ensure that we are not shortcutting any step, and we don’t get to [a situation where we say] ‘we need to develop faster’. Then you start to skip some methodical steps that we have applied so far.
“I think everyone at McLaren, especially the technical leadership, are very aware that the pace of development is already fast. And that’s what we need to keep pursuing.
“Then we’ll see, once we are in Bahrain next year, who’s been able to develop faster. We saw with Aston Martin that over the winter, big steps are possible, or like with McLaren, that you can do it even during the season.”