McLaren boss warns of ‘big reaction’ from Mercedes as he shares Ferrari rumour

Charles Leclerc won two of the opening three races in 2022, following an instantly competitive package from Ferrari.

New McLaren team principal Andrea Stella has revealed that he’s heard that Ferrari are “very happy” with their F1-75 successor, with the Italian expecting a “competitive start” from the Scuderia.

It has been reported that Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will have an additional 30hp at their disposal as well in 2023, with the team having supposedly fixed their power unit reliability issues which ridiculed their recent campaign.

With all this in mind, Stella is certain that the Maranello-based outfit will once again have a “competitive start” to the new season, with Leclerc having started 2022 emphatically.

The Monegasque driver won two of the opening three races this year, with the 25-year-old having been quickly labelled as a title favourite, something which didn’t materialise.

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Stella is also expecting a “big reaction” from Mercedes, who will be eager to return to the front of the field after their troubling year.

McLaren’s boss is therefore expecting the usual three teams to dominate the top of the timesheets, with all three being in a “different category”.

“The teams to beat in the next F1 season are Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes, which are currently competing in a different category from ours,” Stella said, as quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy.

“I expect a big reaction from Mercedes, even though I know that at Ferrari they are very happy with the new car and so they will certainly have a competitive start.”

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Stella is, of course, replacing Andreas Seidl as team principal of the Woking-based team, with the German having returned to Sauber to become CEO of the Sauber Group, a role that new Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur once held.

It’s a big job to be awarded for Stella, with Seidl having performed wonders whilst leading the British side.

2022 was disappointing for McLaren, with the team having fallen short of fourth in the Constructors’ Championship after a lengthy battle with Alpine.

It doesn’t look set to get any easier for Lando Norris next season, with Stella predicting that the start of 2023 will be “difficult”.

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He’s hoping that Norris and rookie Oscar Piastri will be able to push the team’s new car closer to the frontrunners, with the target being for the team to have a competitive package from the start of the season.

“I still expect a difficult start, but I am optimistic for the second half of the season,” Stella said.

“The most important goal is to make a fast car. We need to make up a second, a second and a half on the others.”