Norris not fully “confident and comfortable” in the MCL38 as long term McLaren F1 car limitations still exist

Photo Credit: McLaren Racing
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Ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix, McLaren driver Lando Norris shared his thoughts on the team’s progress and expectations for the race. Fresh off his first Grand Prix win at Miami, Norris has shown that McLaren can compete at the highest level despite following Red Bull’s dominant start to 2024.

Discussing the team’s improvements in low speed performance, Norris acknowledged the strides made but emphasised that there is still work to be done when a track contains more than just low speed corners.

“I mean, at the minute you would just say every track’s been better than last year. Until we got to Austria, you know, that was the first time we had the upgrade last year.

“So I think it’s still probably our biggest weakness. And I think yes, we were good in Monaco, but that’s when you can just focus on slow speed,” he explained.

Norris added that while McLaren has made significant progress, the team needs to continue improving to match Ferrari’s standards in slow-speed sections.

“I think we still need to improve it more to be on par with Ferrari. I think they’re the standards of where we need to be in slow speed. It’s just a combination of ride and confidence and driver feeling inside the car.

“So I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that, but we’ve clearly improved and that’s probably been one of the areas we’ve improved the most and why we’ve been able to be a bit more consistent this year.”

Reflecting on recent performances, the 24-year-old further mentioned that both he and his teammate Oscar Piastri have shown strong potential, with the Australian even having the overall best sectors in Monaco but was not quite able to string them together on the same lap.

Norris also shared his thoughts on the significant improvements McLaren has made, particularly regarding their performance at low-speed venues.

When asked about whether the advancements exceeded the team’s expectations and if there was a clear understanding of why these enhancements had such a notable impact, the Brit driver was cautious in his assessment. 

“Honestly, it’s hard to say that as a driver. I probably wouldn’t say that as a driver. I still feel like I struggle just as much, which is always the thing you’re going to feel in the car. But I struggle with the same things. It’s not like we’ve just fixed what our issues were.” 

Sainz, Ricciardo, Piastri and Norris have all explained over recent years that unique characteristics regarding handling has made the last few McLaren cars tricky to drive.

Norris highlighted the importance of continuing to make progress on tackling it and expressed confidence in the team’s ability to tackle the remaining challenges.

“I still don’t feel confident and comfortable with certain things from that aspect, but clearly we’re closer to where we need to be relative to the other teams around us.

“So I think there’s still plenty of things we want to improve and progress we need to make. But I’m confident as a team with how much we’ve improved over the last year that we can tackle that even more.”

Weather could also play a crucial role in the Canadian GP, and Norris noted that McLaren has shown strength in both wet and dry conditions recently.

As well as winning in the dry in Miami, the British star stormed to pole by over a second in China in Sprint qualifying.

“I mean the last few weeks we’ve been good in both conditions so I don’t really mind which one. I think we have strengths and weaknesses in both conditions,” he said.

Norris also pointed out that the circuit’s long straights and DRS zones could pose a challenge for McLaren compared to teams like Ferrari and Red Bull due to their lack of efficiency compared to them, but he remains optimistic about the ongoing updates and improvements the team is making.

“This track I think is just going to be a short circuit so we know we still don’t have the best DRS and there’s some fairly long straights here with DRS so we know we’re already going to probably lose a little bit of lap time comparing to Ferrari, comparing to Red Bull, comparing to what we need and what we should have as a top team.“

Regarding which team would come on top this weekend, Norris favoured Ferrari and their strengths but remained hopeful for a competitive race.

“I think they’re [Ferrari] favorites. I mean with kerb riding, kerb riding is a big part around here. But I mean it’s just going to be close.

“It’s impossible for me to say if it’s going to be us or Ferrari or Red Bull on top. So I think that’s why it’s exciting. It’s because none of us really know and it’s just going to be very close. It has been the last three, four weeks.

“But Ferrari, I’d probably put as the favourites because decent straight line speed. I know they complained of it but yeah, they should try just putting a little bit less rear wing on sometimes. And that’s about it.

“Otherwise, when you look at where they were last weekend, even where we were, Oscar theoretically should have been on pole. He had the best sectors altogether.

“So when you look at it like that, then you say maybe we should have been and that kind of thing.

“But as an all-round car, I think they probably have one that suits this track best, but I’ll find out tomorrow.”