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EXPLAINED: How Andrea Stella is leading McLaren back to F1 glory

EXPLAINED: How Andrea Stella is leading McLaren back to F1 glory

F1 News

EXPLAINED: How Andrea Stella is leading McLaren back to F1 glory

EXPLAINED: How Andrea Stella is leading McLaren back to F1 glory

McLaren have been nothing less than a dark horse during the 2023 season.

The team didn't have a good start in Jeddah and Bahrain. Lando Norris in the Bahrain Grand Prix had to make about six pitstops and rookie Oscar Piastri struggled to get used to the car.

The initial races of the season were a washout for McLaren as they struggled to make it into the points.

However, McLaren introduced their first major upgrade in Austria. Team principal Andrea Stella called the upgrade a possibility for the drivers to "turn around" the season.

The team surprised everyone on the grid with their "rocketship speed" in Silverstone, where Norris and Piastri finished P2 and P3 respectively in the British Grand Prix qualifying. There has been no turning back since then.

Norris secured three back-to-back podiums and Piastri finished on the top in the sprint events.

Team McLaren's success has been possible because of sustained and gradual efforts by everyone in the team, starting with Stella.

He proved to be a team "leader" and not a team "boss", as many news outlets mention team principals. Stella is on a mission to make McLaren strong enough to be on the top with Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes.

McLaren's nurturing culture

Stella has taken the mantle from Andreas Seidl and has established a culture that has brought the best out of the drivers, mechanics in the garage, engineers, and executive management.

Stella learned about the "culture" of a team from Michael Schumacher, who was the emotional engine of Team Ferrari.

The team principal said on Beyond the Grid: "I think if you want to be part of our journey, something we said very clearly at McLaren is that you need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable because this journey is going to be uncomfortable."

Adding further, he said: "It's for us, especially in leadership positions, to create the conditions for this discomfort to be enjoyable."

He recalls from his time at Ferrari that it is important for the leadership to establish personal relationships with everyone in the team.

The behaviour and the demonstration of wanting to communicate with someone like a junior engineer, like Stella, had imprinted on him.

This is the "culture" he is trying to imbibe in McLaren. Speaking about the same, he said: "The script was almost set and then evolved, developed, and you need to be open-minded and make sure that your ego doesn't get in the way."

Under Andrea Stella, McLaren have also moved closer to taking pole position

Technical approach

Apart from a nurturing environment, McLaren is also recognized for its technical approach to change. With their first upgrade to the MCL60 made in Austria, the team was assured of having a good car on track.

The confidence in the car increased during the initial tests, where Stella picked up hints of the car being able to perform well during the race.

In his interview with Beyond the Grid, he said: "You couldn't necessarily see the outright lap time, but I remember myself looking immediately at overlays.

"I could see that the speed we were carrying in the corners compared to the other car was encouraging. I said to myself, 'This extra speed we are carrying must be coming from the car.'"

This assurance and confidence in the car drove them to debut on track in the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix in the Sprint event.

The MCL60's astonishing pace shocked everyone on the grid at Silverstone. Norris secured his first podium of the season, which gave the rival teams a good reason to worry about their performance in future races.

However, Stella was quick to figure out the shortcomings of the car after the Hungarian Grand Prix and said there was more room for improvement for the MCL60.

McLaren have closed the performance gap on Red Bull

The big jump

Stella has been able to reach where he is today because of his experience working with teams like Ferrari and McLaren.

Had Ferrari not approached his university looking for someone who was interested in F1, Stella would have had a different story to tell.

It was what he learned from being with the Tifosi that helped him make that big jump to join and explore McLaren.

Although there was some commotion with him making the move, the Italians had received it well and accepted his decision to move to McLaren.

Though the move might have been uncomfortable, Stella was embedded and accepted fully as a McLaren employee back in 2015.

McLaren's future

As the 2023 season approaches its end, McLaren has made its mark on the grid, and both Norris and Piastri have made their presence felt on track.

Stella has indeed done a remarkable job in helping McLaren come in fourth in the constructor’s championship.

Talking about the immediate future, Stella expects Norris and Piastri to recreate their 'stellar' performances moving forward.

Going into 2024 with high hopes, the team principal looks forward to working towards making McLaren a winning machine and competing with rival teams like Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari.

The team will exploit every opportunity and infrastructure that helped them in 2023, like wind tunnels, simulators, manufacturing facilities, etc.

He aims to bring full horsepower to the team as they welcome David Sanchez and Rob Marshall on board for next year. There are a lot of expectations from them, considering the amount of experience and resources they have behind them.

Also, it would be interesting to see what McLaren does to implement the FIA's new sustainable engine protocols in 2026.

Shubham Sangodkar is a former F1 Aerodynamicist with a Master's in Racing Car Design specialising in F1 Aerodynamics and F1 Data Analysis. He also posts aerodynamics content on his YouTube channel, which can be found here.

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