F1 technical expert decodes why McLaren MCL60 will struggle after first update following Red Bull ‘copycat’ work

Reputed F1 technical expert Craig Scarborough believes that McLaren has made the grave mistake of “not being bold enough” while designing its MCL60 for the 2023 season.

The McLaren MCL60 received mixed reviews at its launch, with team principal Andrea Stella making the controversial statement of saying the team is “not entirely happy” with the launch-spec car.

The MCL60 has a distinct similarity with Red Bull’s title-winning RB18 and Scarborough feels that simply copying a design is not befitting of a team with lofty ambitions in the near future.

Scarborough was speaking on F1 journalist Peter Windsor’s YouTube channel.

“When I first saw the MCL60, it really looks like a warmed-over, orange-painted Red Bull from last year,” he said.

“All of the features are very Red Bull-like in terms of the sidepods, some of the features around the rest of the car. If you actually lay the two side by side, they really look very, very similar.

“Obviously the stuff that we see on the top of the car isn’t really where the performance is. The performance is actually underneath the car and in the detail of the suspension, so assuming they’ve copied the top half they’ve probably copied lots of the underside of the car as well.

“Is that good or bad for McLaren? It’s very hard to come to a balanced opinion when you look at some of the other cars that have really followed a similar-ish direction.

Lando Norris. Credit: gpfans.com
Lando Norris. Credit: gpfans.com

“Someone like Williams, for example, it’s probably a good thing that they’ve gone in that direction.”

Scarborough wasn’t convinced the McLaren engineers had done the necessary homework to address problems ahead of the 2023 campaign.

“For McLaren, if they really want to close that gap I can’t see how copying a car from last year – albeit the fastest car from last year – is the direction to be heading in.

“And the team just didn’t seem to think the aero was where they wanted it to be, so it’s very hard to see where McLaren are at the moment.

“They really should be making that big leap that we’ve been waiting for, that was building up before 2022 and kind of took a little nose-dive certainly through the first part of last year.

“I’m a little bit underwhelmed by the MCL60. I don’t think it’s necessarily the approach they needed to take. I don’t think it’s bold enough for them.

“However, if you’re making it around some good bones which was the RB18, Championship-winning car from last year, then really how far can they go wrong?

“But something doesn’t feel right about this approach for me.”

McLaren should still be competitive

Scarborough may not be on the same page as far as the method involved is concerned, but he does feel that McLaren should still be competitive on the track.

However, the fact that McLaren has copied a rival’s design will make it difficult for the team to continue developing the car as they don’t have the in-depth knowledge of the design that Red Bull had, having created it themselves.

MCL60. Credit: planetf1.com
MCL60. Credit: planetf1.com

“I think McLaren have to do a lot to this car to get it to chase the top three,” he said.

“It may come out of the blocks quite quickly, but because they’ve taken someone else’s concept how much development do they have in that?

“We often see with teams that take someone else’s concept that it’s tricky because you’re not actually learning everything yourself.

“You’re following a design, getting it to work in the way that you like and sometimes you don’t have that underlying knowledge, which can make it tricky.

“I think McLaren’s story through this year is probably going to be a tale of several parts, from how they are out of the blocks and when they get the first big developments on to that car and how much they can catch up everybody else when you have a resurgent midfield.

“Alpine are going to come out very strong this year, hopefully with the reliability they lacked last year, so McLaren have got a big fight on their hands both in front of them and behind.

“For me, it’s just a strange direction for them to have taken this year.”

Read more: Toto Wolff points to distinct Mercedes advantage over Red Bull ahead of season opener – “Certainly not great for them”

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