Jolyon Palmer doubts McLaren can compete in midfield with “fundamental flaw”

McLaren driver Oscar Piastri locks up. Bahrain February 2023 Credit: Alamy
McLaren driver Oscar Piastri locks up. Bahrain February 2023 Credit: Alamy

The new MCL60 has been dealt a damning assessment by Jolyon Palmer, who is worried McLaren could slip out of the midfield fight.

The British team’s stated aims were to re-take P4 on the Constructors’ standings from Alpine and begin closing the gap to Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, hoping to convince star driver Lando Norris of their potential for Grand Prix victories in the future.

Even before the lights went green in Bahrain, McLaren were scaling back those objectives. New team principal Andrea Stella admitted to being “not entirely happy” with at their 2023 contender at its launch.

Events on the Sakhir track immediately ratified their pessimism. McLaren drove fewer laps than any other team across the three days, spending more time in the garage than they would have liked dealing with the 60th anniversary car’s wheel brows.

A spin for Piastri on Day 3, the only one throughout the Bahrain test, topped off a mightily frustrating period.

“Probably the toughest week for them and another tough pre-season,” former Renault driver Palmer said of McLaren’s test to

“This time last year they were barely getting any miles in through problems with the brakes, this time it’s the wheel brows causing problems.

“Weight saving is still a big area of development for the teams and McLaren have come with a fundamental flaw in their car that derailed a lot of their running.

“They had the fewest laps of any team which is not good for Oscar Piastri, the rookie who didn’t have a particularly clean start.

“Have they got enough to be in the midfield at the start? They’re very downbeat.

“They’ve got upgrades planned but this was undoubtedly tough. The car looked well enough balanced on track but I just think they’re missing downforce, missing fundamental speed and they’re a team playing catch-up at the start of the year no doubt.” recommends

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Following a barren period in the team’s history between 2013 and 2018, the iconic Woking team rebounded in 2019 by bagging P4 in the Constructors’ standings, followed up by third the year after.

However, McLaren appeared to take a step back last year with Norris only able to earn one podium finish, while they had to abandon their two-year struggle to unlock Daniel Ricciardo’s pace.

Replacing the eight-time GP winner with 2021 F2 champion Piastri for 2023, McLaren have a driver line-up packed with young talent. However, they are risking holding the British-Australian duo back with a sub-par machinery.

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