Norris’ quest to improve F1 qualifying performance in 2024 starts from “mental things”

Photo Credit: McLaren Racing
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It was quite an astonishing season for Lando Norris in 2023, arguably his best one so far in Formula 1.

Things hadn’t started out well for McLaren with both drivers suffering technical issues as soon as the first race in Bahrain, but they got down to work in Woking and turned a struggling MCL60 around halfway through the season thanks to three separate upgrade packages from Austria onward.

A comeback that Norris certainly did not let go to waste, as he closed the year with 7 podium finishes. The Brit vaulted up to P5 in the drivers’ standings after sitting a lowly P11 before the Canadian Grand Prix and those game-changing updates at the Red Bull Ring.

He learned to adapt to a car that was not quite the best match for his driving style and improved a lot in managing the tyres, as we saw in Suzuka. Often he found himself battling with Ferrari and Mercedes and even came close to Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

A lot of brilliant performances for the Brit, including an impressive comeback from P17 to P5 in Mexico and a pole position in the sprint shootout of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Nonetheless, entering the new season his eyes are all set on what can be improved, especially on the mental side, as he told media after the launch of the MCL38.

“It’s been various things already, both in terms of how I drive, how I work in extracting the performance during laps. Understanding these traits and these things and then putting them to the test on the simulator and trying to improve them.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to improve various things until you’re actually in the car and performing it. But to the extent of what I can, even if it’s mental things at the same time.”

Looking back at last season some small – but rather costly – mistakes had him lose out on reaching a better position in qualifying. 

It was the case, for example, in Qatar where the McLaren was flying through the high-speed corners of the Losail International Circuit, Norris was tailing Verstappen’s time for a P2 in Q3, but running wide at Turn 10 saw his time deleted and demoted him to 10th on Sunday’s starting grid. 

A missed chance he was his harshest critic for and that now has Norris “trying to work on any area that” he “can to improve it.”

“Which I would say I’ve done. But it’s always a different experience until you get back in the car and you’re in that moment again, until you can really try things during that pressure and during those moments,” he explained.

“I’ve done what I can with various things with my team who I have around me, but I guess it’s hard to know until the first qualifying of the season, and how well those things might work, whether they have or not, and what further things might need to be done to improve on those areas.”

Although it seems that we are yet to see the real challenger he will be driving next season, as the version we have seen so far is in disguise,

“Because it’s a game of performance and why would you ever want to give away anything?” chirped Norris when asked about it.

“You can see what the car looks like, but you’ll see in two weeks or something the rest. So be patient.”

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