Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes McLaren will be a “factor” in the 2024 title fight, following on from their impressive second half of 2023.
McLaren were like a different team in the second half of the most recent season, with the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix having been their big turning point.
The Woking-based side started last year with an uncompetitive package, which saw Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri towards the back of the grid.
Norris in particular was clearly frustrated with how poor the MCL60 was, whilst Piastri wasn’t able to show his full potential.
This was until a huge upgrades package was introduced at the Red Bull Ring, propelling McLaren towards Red Bull.
The Austrian GP was almost like the start of a new season for McLaren, who recovered to fourth in the Constructors’ Championship by the end of the year.
Whilst they finished fourth, from Austria onwards they were consistently Red Bull’s biggest threat, with Piastri having claimed victory in the Qatar Grand Prix Sprint race.
Alongside his Sprint win, Piastri collected two podiums, whereas Norris excelled as per usual and featured on the rostrum an impressive seven times across 11 races.
The expectation is that McLaren will continue to improve into 2024, which could result in them further reducing Red Bull’s advantage.
McLaren also now have the addition of Red Bull’s former chief engineering officer Rob Marshall, who officially joined the side on January 1.
It’s a sign that the British outfit are going from strength-to-strength, something Horner is very aware of.
The Red Bull boss admits McLaren were the side’s “closest competitor” in the second half of 2023 and will be a genuine contender this year.
“I think McLaren had a great second half of the year,” Horner told Sky Sports.
“There were times when they were our closest competitor. They have strengthened their team and Rob [Marshall] will be an asset, but it’s not just about one person.
“There are seven or eight hundred people in an F1 team and it needs the whole team to come together.
“With Lando [Norris] and Oscar [Piastri] – who was really impressive as a debutant – they could well be a factor next year.”