A “reasonable” step — Lando Norris on McLaren’s “obvious” F1 Miami GP update

Photo Credit: McLaren Racing
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McLaren head into the Miami Grand Prix on a wave of optimism. Lando Norris finished a strong P2 in the Chinese Grand Prix last time out. The team is also bringing updates to Miami. Heading into Shanghai, Andrea Stella expected the Woking-based squad to struggle due to the track characteristics with the MCL38’s difficulties in slower corners.

However, things turned out quite differently. Although the Sprint ended up in disappointment following Lando Norris’ pole position on Friday, things turned around by Sunday.

In the Sprint, the Brit and Oscar Piastri struggled with tyre wear compared to Ferrari as they finished P6 and P7. But in the Grand Prix itself, Norris had great pace and tyre management following set-up changes before Grand Prix qualifying, comfortably beating Perez and both Ferraris to P2.

Speaking in his media session ahead of the Miami Grand Prix, Norris admitted McLaren had not fully understood why they were so strong over the 56-lap race.

“I think we understood bits of it. Probably not why we were as close to Red Bull as what we expected, or why Sunday was as great as we expected.

“I think our pace on Saturday in the Sprint race was probably more as we expected, which was behind Ferrari, a long way behind Red Bull.

“The [Sprint] quali was wet in China, so that always made things look very differently to what we expect.

“But I think [Grand Prix] qualifying was as we expected. Red Bull was a quick step ahead of us. Max was four a half, five tenths ahead. I think Ferrari were more not getting things right. They maybe struggled a little bit more than we thought.

“But I think we understood — there’s different reasons. There isn’t just one reason or one thing to say exactly. But a number of small things add up to make quite a big difference.

“It’s understood that trying to achieve such a thing every weekend is not necessarily possible, some of it is to do with wind and different conditions, stuff like that.

“We try and maximise everything but sometimes it’s a little bit out of your control.”

Like his team boss, Norris confirmed that the updates on the MCL38 should be visible for everyone to see this weekend.

After an initial response of “I don’t know, hopefully a quicker car” when asked about his hopes for the update, the British driver went into more detail.

While they will need more time to solve the inherent car characteristics that has plagued their packages for a few years now, the 15-time podium finisher expects a solid step.

“I think it’s reasonable. It definitely should be obvious.

“I’m hoping for that when I am behind the wheel in terms of feeling some good steps forward.

“It’s not necessarily directed at helping in all of our weak areas, which is something we’re still aiming at and working very hard to try and improve.

“But anything that’s going to try and make the car go quicker, especially when it’s so tight, is going to help.

“We wouldn’t have pushed so hard to try and bring it here on a Sprint race unless we were hoping to improve.”

With only a single practice session before getting into two qualifying sessions, a Sprint and a Grand Prix, the 24-year-old is hopeful they get everything right immediately.

“Quite a bit [more difficult to have only one practice session with updates and get everything nailed down], especially with it being so hot.

“You have to make sure you get everything from like the temperatures, everything correct. It’s never an easy task anyway, so especially when you have an upgrade, things like that have changed quite a bit.

“Yes, you have to be on top of your game to make sure you have no issues and all of that.

“It’s a good task for us to try and maximise everything.”

On the Miami track itself, Norris is not particularly optimistic heading into this weekend. The McLaren driver explained how most of the lap contains corners/sections that simply do not suit the MCL38.

Unlike in Shanghai, there is not too many medium or high speed corners in Miami to help McLaren gain back the time they lose in the low speed.

“The slow speed, yeah. Sector 3, turn 1, turn 2. The very slow speed is still our weakness.

“Sometimes we can work our way there, we can improve the car just about enough to not be terrible. But it’s just always a very big challenge for us.

“We only have one session to try and set up the car for such slow speed corners. That’s normally when we struggle a little bit more.

“If you go back to China, although there was some slow speed, there was still a reasonable amount of high speed.

“You can tell by the entry of Turn 1, where we were very strong. We could carry a lot of speed into Turn 1. And almost what we gained there, we then lost in Turn 2-3. So we kind of had an immediate win and an immediate loss.

“And yeah, some slower speed corners, but we’re still talking some 3rd gear, 4th gear corners. Not everything was like 2nd or 3rd gear.

“We should have a bit more of a bias towards saying it’s not going to be a strong circuit for us.

“There’s still a couple of medium speed, highish speed corners […] there’s only one. So I’ll make sure I maximise that and try and cut my losses.”

Ahead of tomorrow’s Sprint, Norris sits P5 in the Drivers’ Championship, 11 points behind former teammate Carlos Sainz.