At Imola and Austria, Norris had the pace to challenge for pole position and the podium positions on pure pace, only missing out on pole at the Red Bull Ring by 0.048secs to Max Verstappen.
“We were a bit surprised at some races to be able to compete so closely with Mercedes and Red Bull," said Stella.
"For example, the second race in Austria, we were genuinely very close to pole position and genuinely quick in the race.
“Even if in the race normally, Red Bull and Mercedes tend to open up the gap compared to the midfield, that is a trend that we have seen throughout the year.
“I think the reason is certainly from last year, we are happy with what we have been able to improve through the power unit. It has been important but we are not the only car running a HPP [Mercedes High Performance Powertrain] power unit.
"Aston Martin is running a HPP power unit as well so I think this is credit to the development of the chassis that McLaren has been able to achieve, in a way, some operational aspects and I would like to mention also the drivers."
“When we think about Austria, when we think about Imola, somehow we go back to the point I made before. I think our car it has very clear characteristics," he added.
“Some of these characteristics make it a very, very competitive car when the track has some special requirements. So we can see that [in] Austria there are six-seven corners, four of them are well above 200kmph. We know that our car is happy in this kind of demand.
“So yes, surprising, but I think there are some reasonable, technical explanations as to why we can be so close at some of the venues.”
What do you think?
Re: surprised to be able to contest so closely with Mercedes and Red Bull at times this season.
>What IS the surprise? Runnin the SAME engine/PU as Mercedes.
GPFans is a multi-platform, multi-language brand dedicated to Formula One coverage. We bring you all the ins and outs of the sport, 24/7, everything from up-to-the-minute news and features to the latest viral stories and clips.
We believe that a new generation of exciting, outspoken drivers will make F1 more popular than ever before, and we want to give our users access to as much of their heroes as possible, on and off the track. From Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel, we provide in-depth analysis of every every Grand Prix in the season, from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
With Formula One under the new ownership of Liberty Media, how the sport is being covered is evolving, and GPFans will look to be at the heart of this progression into new media, as one of the fastest-growing sites covering the king of motorsports.