Norris says McLaren and Ferrari the only two F1 teams who have both drivers “performing every single session”

Photo Credit: McLaren Racing
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Lando Norris got his first ever Formula 1 win recently in Miami, and then just barely lost out on another P1 finish in Imola last Sunday. The MCL38 car is proving its competitiveness and McLaren is closing in on Red Bull and Ferrari, who are currently ahead of them in the Constructors’ Championship.

Coming to the Monaco Grand Prix, the Woking-based team had time to analyse data from the previous race on the Autodromo Dino Ferrari circuit, and determine if there is something they could have done differently to get Norris on the top step of the podium two events in a row.

After dropping 7.5s behind Verstappen at one point as the Dutchman was quicker on the mediums and eased away a bit more early in the hard stint, the British driver came storming back in the closing stages to finish 0.7s behind the winner.

The 24-year-old says it shows where McLaren still needs to improve but was pleased with his own performance.

“I think we had a pretty optimal race. Especially when you look at it, I clearly had the best race pace in the second stint by a considerable margin,” the British driver commented. 

“At the same time, if I pushed more, I would have ended up like Max [driving on ice in the closing laps]. So it’s an impossible… It’s something you can’t define.

“You win in one part, you’re going to lose in another part. I think we gave it our all. I didn’t make any silly mistakes that cost me one second or something like that. I never went off track, I didn’t have any of those things. Just lost out too much in the first stint.

“And now it’s just down to a couple of different things and just not quite having the pace compared to the Red Bull.

“I think that’s where we say we need to improve in some areas, it’s those kinds of conditions still when it’s very hot. And rear degradation is an issue. If we can improve on that, then that’s our thing.

“But I think the team executed everything well. I think I did a good job. As much as it hurts, I think we did the best we could.”

McLaren also recognised their almost traditional weaknesses in low speed. That has shifted a good amount with the upgrades brought to Miami, which has lifted Norris’ confidence “a bit”, though there’s still a lot of work to do as Turn 7 in Imola showed.

“It’s still our biggest weakness,” he admitted. “Even if you look at Imola, if you look at, say, Turn 7, so our worst corner. The chicane is still one of our worst corners.”

Nonetheless, it’s not all bad, as Norris added. With Monaco all about low speed performance, McLaren does not need to worry about a trade-off this weekend.

“I don’t think we’re bad. When we’re saying it’s our biggest weakness, we’re talking about maybe half a tenth at times and that kind of thing.

“But Monaco, you set up only for slow speed and nothing else. I think that’s where maybe it plays a little bit more back into our hands. Well, not our hands, but it’s just not as far-fetched as what it is in some other circuits.

“Last year was not our best year in terms of delivering here in Monaco, but we’ve not been bad here in the past. And we’ve clearly improved a lot since then.

“We didn’t have our upgrade here last year, so a lot of things have improved since then. We’ve definitely improved our slow speed as well.

“So I’m hopeful that it can be a good weekend.”

The achievement of becoming a Formula 1 race winner didn’t change his mindset and approach. Norris is still going into all race weekends with the same feeling and will to fight, no matter what position that might be for.

“It’s not [different]. It’s not because for me, I just go out and do the same thing.

“Qualifying is the same. You go out and just try. Even when you’re in the 10th best car or whatever, you go out, and you always have that hope for just trying to deliver the best lap you can.

“That’s my job, is just going out and driving as quickly as I can. So whether that’s for first, 10th or 20th, it’s the same approach that I have. For me, it doesn’t change.

“I definitely think it puts a little bit more pressure on everyone. Just because one small mistake can be that bit more costly. So you definitely can see it from that perspective.

“But I’m still relaxed. I’m still excited just to go and have another crack at it and see what we can deliver. Mentally, the approach has not changed.

“It’s pretty more exciting. I look forward to it more because I know I have a better chance of being on the podium or maybe winning a race. So it kind of makes me more excited and a bit more hungry for it.

“But the approach of just going out and driving really doesn’t change for me or for my team around me and the people that I work with. It’s just, you know, things can be more costly if it doesn’t go right. Yeah, actually it’s kind of do as normal because normal is very good.”

Being one out of three drivers to take the chequered flag first in a race so far this season, along with Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, it’s only natural he’s viewed as a possible contender for the Drivers’ Championship title.

And not only by fans or the media, but by his rivals as well — Verstappen and Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner agreeing he is in the Drivers’ Championship mix.

Nonetheless, it is not something he is thinking about right now with a decent gap to Verstappen.

“I mean I’m what, 60 points behind Max, so it’s a long, long way to go. I’m definitely not thinking of it, and it really doesn’t change anything. We’ve not thought about it at all over the last four weeks,” said Norris.

“You concentrate on getting a good result, and things just play out for themselves. We’ve definitely put ourselves in there. We lost a lot over the first couple of weekends, so that’s hurt us, but we’re still a third of the way through, so there’s plenty of opportunities for us.”

Norris also spoke about the strong performance of teammate Oscar Piastri. At Imola, they were separated by 0.017s in Q3.

The Brit says only Ferrari and McLaren have drivers who are so closely matched on performance at the moment and consistently get the best out of themselves and the car.

He has not ruled out going for the Constructors’ Championship if they can make more gains with the MCL38.

“We know we still have some things coming in the future, and if things turn around, then we can easily start to come back at some of the teams, especially because I think we’re probably the team, along with Ferrari at least, where we have two cars up there performing at every single session, in every single race and qualifying.

“I think if you look at a lot of the grid, they don’t really have that. You have one guy who’s put in a mega lap and then has a good race, and the other one not so much.

“I think one of our strengths is we’ve always had two cars up there, and we can fight well, along with Ferrari at the minute. So if we keep doing that, then yeah, for sure we can stay in it,” Norris concluded, talking about the importance of having his teammate Oscar Piastri performing on the same level as him to help the team.