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McLaren watches Ferrari and Perez during the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Miami.

Carlos Sainz Jr of Spain, driving Ferrari SF-24, competed in the Formula 1 World Championship, Stage 6, Grand Prix of Miami on May 4, 2024 in Miami, Florida, USA. On the sprint and qualifying day, McLaren team boss Andrea Stella expressed optimism about the team’s chances of battling Ferrari and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez for a place on the podium.

Despite showing promising speed in the early stages of the weekend with his updated MCL38 car, McLaren found themselves behind Ferrari and Red Bull at crucial moments. Lando Norris, who made mistakes in the first sector, lost pole position for the sprint. He also faced challenges with the soft tires, which led him to try the medium tires during qualifying. As a result, Norris and his teammate Oscar Piastri, who had fewer upgrades to their cars, had to settle for starting on the third row for the race.

However, Stella remains positive that the McLaren team can focus on challenging the cars in front of them to secure a place on the podium, rather than just focusing on the Mercedes cars behind them. Stella said: “I believe we can compete with Ferrari and hopefully also with Perez. Yesterday I was more optimistic because the car seemed to perform well compared to Ferrari and Red Bull. However, it seems that we have remained at a similar level today, while Ferrari and Red Bull may have gained some performance. We will have to see how this translates into the race tomorrow.”

During the sprint, Norris experienced the consequences of not being on the grid. He was eliminated at Turn 1 when the two Aston Martin drivers made contact and collided with him. Piastri, on the other hand, struggled to overtake Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz due to the turbulence caused by their cars. Stella admitted it was a challenge to judge McLaren’s potential under racing conditions based on the Sprint. He explained: “It is difficult for us to judge the sprint because one car was immediately taken out of the race and the other car followed Carlos, who followed Daniel. So it is difficult to determine, but I believe we are able to compete with the cars in front of us.”

Despite implementing a significant upgrade package for this weekend’s race in Miami, Stella warned that the intense heat has not been beneficial to their 2024 package. “Miami has historically been a challenging event for us,” Stella noted, referring to McLaren’s poor performance last season. season before the upgrades were introduced. “The extreme temperatures are not ideal for the properties of our car, so we recognize that there are some limitations. However, we will still participate in the race tomorrow with the aim of securing a place on the podium.”

Although the race is expected to include a single pit stop, Stella believes teams can use the undercut strategy to gain positions. “The undercut can be a powerful tactic because although tire degradation is relatively lower compared to races in Japan or China, fitting new tires – even the hard compound – offers a significant advantage on the first lap. This can result in an undercut of approximately one second over twenty laps,” he explained. “However, I predict that this race will have relatively low tire degradation, which could lead to teams extending their first pit stop. If you start with a particular connection, such as the medium, a longer first stop may be possible. Therefore, the timing of the pit stop can become a tactical decision.”

Regarding tire choice, Stella mentioned the performance of the soft compound during the sprint race and its potential impact on the main event. “The use of the soft tire may be considered by some teams. Although starting with the soft tires does not guarantee a significant grip advantage on the first lap, as we saw in the sprint race where the medium compound was just as fast, it can still represent an opportunity for certain cars. That’s why I would say the medium compound is a better choice for the start.”

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