McLaren: Norris not yet at his full F1 potential

Lando Norris

McLaren doesn’t believe Lando Norris has yet reached his full potential as a Formula 1 driver.

The Englishman is in his fourth season in F1, having made his debut with McLaren alongside Carlos Sainz in 2019.

He proved a solid match for the Spaniard the following year, before overshadowing Daniel Ricciardo during their time together since the start of 2021.

A win has thus far eluded him, second place behind Ricciardo at last year’s Italian Grand Prix the best result of his career to date.

Norris went close to victory in Russia two weeks after that event, only for a gamble on tyres in dramatically changeable weather to go against him.

“Lando is still in an early stage in his career, in many respects,” said James Key, McLaren’s Executive Director, Technical.

“He’s worked at McLaren as an F1 driver for as long as I have [been with the team], which is three years, so I think he’s still progressing.

“But yes, taking steps all the time and doing an absolutely tremendous job.”

Norris is leading the team’s charge in terms of the constructors’ championship this year, with 76 points from the opening 13 races versus 19 points from Ricciardo.

A key factor in the 22-year-old’s performances in particular has been strong single lap pace.

At its most simplistic level, that has typically translated into better grid slots than his team-mate and, therefore, better race results as he’s not lost time working through traffic or caught behind rivals, compromising his performance as Ricciardo has experienced.

“The great thing with him is he’s so consistent,” Key added of Norris.

“One race to the next, he’s able to push the limits of the car, find the set-up he needs, feedback very, very well, which is great.

“He’s doing a splendid job for us, so really, really happy with how Lando’s developing.”

The feedback Norris offers is, according to Key, along the same lines as Ricciardo, though the 33-year-old remains somewhat disconnected from the car by comparison.

It’s a struggle the Australian has had since joining McLaren, even if the specifics of the issues this season are different to those he had a year ago.

“Daniel is contributing just as much, certainly with the feedback,” Key explained.

“They have a very kind of similar feeling with the car, so it’s always good to get that correlation point from both drivers.

“When you get to the limits of a car, of course, you’re talking about finer detail, and every driver has different types of sensitivity, every driver has a limitation over a given lap.

“And so the feedback on that really hard pushed, ragged edge kind of feeling they have is slightly different, but the big picture is very similar.

“They’re giving us consistent feedback, so Daniel’s giving us as good feedback as Lando is.”

While nine races remain in the 2023 season, it’s all but certain Ricciardo will leave the team at the end of the year, replaced by Oscar Piastri.

Ricciardo is tipped to rejoin Alpine, for whom he drove in 2019 and 2020 when known as Renault, as replacement for the Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso – the seat Piastri was announced in last week.

The 2022 Formula 1 season resumes with the Belgian Grand Prix on August 26-28.

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