F1 pundit explains why McLaren were so competitive in qualifying but faded in the 2023 F1 Spanish GP

F1 Grand Prix of Spain
Oscar Piastri of Australia driving the (81) McLaren MCL60 Mercedes on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Spain

F1 pundit Mark Hughes believes McLaren's ability to switch on the front tires helps them in qualifying but proves costly for them in races.

McLaren have struggled to get points in the 2023 season, with only 14 in the first eight races. It looked like they were on course for a good haul of points as Lando Norris started P3 and Oscar Pistri started P6 in the Spanish GP. However, early contact with Lewis Hamilton ruined Norris' race, while Piastri was never in contention.

Hughes said on The Race podcast:

"The demands of qualifying are completely different from those of the race. We were talking before about the extreme influence the tires had this weekend and the contrast between the demands of qualifying and the race. It was all about tires but in qualifying it was about how quickly you can get the heat in the fronts on a cool track, which the McLaren is better than any other car.
"Whereas in the race, it was about keeping the heat out of the fronts, which the McLaren is not good at. Hence, its qualifying pace was enormously flattered by how well it worked the tires and its limitations were exposed in the race,"

McLaren team principal analyzes performance at the 2023 Spanish GP

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella stated that the Spanish GP main race was a realistic display of their current performance after a 'very positive' qualifying on Saturday.

As per F1.com, Stella said:

"Following a very positive qualifying session, today’s Spanish Grand Prix was a more realistic showing of our current competitiveness. We knew it would be more difficult to perform at the top of the field on race pace today given the hotter conditions. The situation was compounded by contact on the first lap between Lando and Lewis Hamilton, which resulted in Lando pitting for a new front wing and falling 30 seconds behind the field.
“I would like to praise the team today. Despite a difficult position, both Lando and Oscar both kept pushing, their engineering teams put in maximum effort to extract everything from the cars, and the garage crew delivered good pit stops. Back at the factory, everyone is working hard to deliver upgrades and looking to the future when we hope to be fighting for more competitive positions."

It will be fascinating to see if the team can make progress up the field with upgrades in the next races.

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Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh
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