"I think that they could have run at the front of the field at that pace": McLaren's late race speed impressed Mark Hughes
F1 pundit Mark Hughes was impressed by McLaren's performance at the 2023 Monaco GP. The team that has been on the back foot since the start of the year scored double points in Monte Carlo, showing promise for the times to come.
Hughes is unsure whether it was the car or the drivers that yielded spectacular results for the Woking-based team in Monaco, with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri finishing ninth and tenth respectively.
The MCL60 performed unusually well in the rainy conditions in the Principality, with the drivers putting in faster laps than some of the front-runners.
The team has been on the back foot since the start of the year but is slowly climbing back to the top with periodic upgrades. Speaking about McLaren's pace in Monaco, Mark Hughes told The Race podcast:
"I think also the car was just very good - or whether it's the car or the drivers or the combination of them being at ease with the traits of the car in those conditions. They had no reason to be pushing hard."
"They weren't gonna catch Sainz but that was just the natural pace that they were running at. I think that they could have run at the front of the field at that pace."
What is McLaren's target after a disastrous start to the year?
McLaren CEO Zak Brown has revised the team's objectives for the 2023 season, shifting their focus from aiming for a fourth-place finish to targeting fifth place. Brown explains that the leading four teams would have established a considerable points advantage by the time McLaren catches up in terms of development.
The British team has faced a challenging start to the year, struggling to score significant points in the initial six races. While initially aspiring to be among the top four teams in 2023, McLaren has encountered difficulties in keeping up with the rest of the midfield.
As a result, both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri frequently find themselves at the back of the grid, unable to secure points with their cars. Compounding McLaren's challenges, their rivals from the previous season, Aston Martin, have made notable progress and currently hold the second position in the constructors' standings.
The American told the F1 Nation podcast:
"Our goal is to be mixing it up inside the top four by the end of the year. But I think, given the headstart and the slow start we've had, actually to get to fourth on the points will probably be a tall order."
"So I think we're fighting for fifth with a few and then our goal is to be racing inside the top four by the end of the year and put in a better car out at the start of the year next year."
It will be interesting to watch the team's progress over the coming months.