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F1 aero expert reveals POWER of Norris' McLaren upgrade as Piastri misses out

F1 aero expert reveals POWER of Norris' McLaren upgrade as Piastri misses out

F1 aero expert reveals POWER of Norris' McLaren upgrade as Piastri misses out

Shubham Sangodkar
F1 aero expert reveals POWER of Norris' McLaren upgrade as Piastri misses out

McLaren introduced their biggest aero update package of the season at the Austrian GP, which empowered Lando Norris to beat the Mercedes on pure pace in the qualifying session and in the race.

Norris was just 0.267sec off Max Verstappen in the qualifying session, and finished P4 just behind the Red Bull and 2 Ferraris.

After the qualifying session, he said: “Good to see the progress in the car, thanks to everyone at the factory for making this happen."

However, McLaren had only one set of updated parts, so Oscar Piastri was still running with the old spec McLaren.

While this was bad news for him as he couldn’t make it out of Q2, this is good news for us as it provides us with the perfect opportunity to make a 1-1 comparison to understand how good the McLaren aero update really is.

Lando Norris's McLaren has updated parts for the Austrian Grand Prix

Piastri v Norris head to head in Q2

Even though the Austrian track features only 10 turns and is one of the fastest laps on the F1 calendar, Norris was able to be six tenths faster than his teammate in Q2.

This speaks volumes of the progress made by McLaren over the last couple of months. So, where specifically has the car become faster?

The answer is, well, everywhere. If we look at the plot below, we can see that there are improvements in the minimum speed for all the low-speed corners, there is more confidence under braking and Norris can sweep around the high-speed corners much faster.

Slow-Speed Corners

Let's break it down. Looking at turns 2 and 3, we can notice that Norris is faster in top speed approaching both turns 2 and 3 by 3-4 km/hr, indicating that McLaren has decreased the overall drag of the car.

We can see that Norris can brake much later for both turns as well, indicating a much more stable rear end of the car under braking and a good aero balance to be able to turn the car so late into the corner.

Even after braking so late, Norris is able to carry the same minimum speed at the apex in turn 3 and goes even faster in the turn, indicating an improvement in slow-speed corners.

High-Speed Corners

The high-speed corners are always indicative of car performance, as they are always rear-grip limited.

This is because generally it's the rear downforce that’s hard to find and once you have that, you can always almost add front downforce via the front wing design or the front floor design.

From the corner analysis below, it's clear that Norris can carry much more speed through the fast, sweeping right-handers, which is an indication of a stable rear end in fast corners that come from good rear downforce.

More improvements to come

What is really encouraging is that according to McLaren, they have only introduced 50 per cent of the major upgrade, with 25 per cent more coming over each of the next two races.

This means it's only going to be an upward trajectory for them from here onwards.

Additionally, as the races go by they will also gain performance by understanding their new package, so a lot of potential is present there as well.

So if you are a McLaren fan, in my opinion, exciting times are ahead.

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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