Norris says McLaren has “what it takes” to win F1 world championships in the future; admits it wouldn’t be “smart” to join Verstappen at Red Bull

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After signing a new long-term deal to stay with McLaren F1 for an undisclosed amount of time post-2025, Lando Norris is adamant the Woking squad has “what it takes” to challenge for the title in the near future. He also explained why a possible move to Red Bull alongside reigning three-time world champion Max Verstappen would not be a “smart move”.

Norris has been with McLaren since his European Formula 3 days in 2017, when he was signed as a junior driver for the Woking team. He would go on to test McLaren’s 2017 car at a mid-season test in the Hungaroring, and made his F1 debut with the team in FP1 for the 2018 Belgian GP, before his making the step-up as a full-time driver in 2019.

Five years later, he went on to achieve one pole position and 13 podiums with the team, seven of which came in the second half of 2023 as the team surged up the grid after a disappointing start.

And considering his long-standing bond with the team and the current upward trajectory that the squad seems to be on under the leadership of Andrea Stella, Norris is “convinced” that his decision will pay dividends in the years to come, in the form of the team going back to its world championship-challenging form – last seen in the late 2000s under Ron Dennis.

“There are two things which really influence my decisions,” Norris said in an interview with Sky Sports. “One, do I enjoy where I’m at or will I enjoy where I go to? And, two, will this team help me achieve my goal which is to become Formula 1 world champion?

“Both are now yes really and I’m more convinced than ever that that second one is especially a yes.

“I love it here. I’ve loved it here since day one, I’m very much part of the papaya family, and I want to continue that story and that chapter of trying to achieve that goal.

“That trajectory we’ve been on last year hopefully continues and that’s going to help us achieve that goal of a world championship.”

However promising McLaren’s current path looks, it is undeniable that Red Bull seems like the most enticing prospect for any driver on the grid, given the sheer level of dominance that especially Max Verstappen enjoyed in 2023, winning 19 out of 22 races, and that trend doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon until the new set of regulations arrive in 2026.

But Norris admitted that whilst he’s not “scared” of going up against the Dutchman in a team that’s “built up around him”, it would not be a “smart move” to join the Milton Keynes squad at its current state, given it would take him time to adapt and get to the level in which he could challenge the three-time world champion:

“He’s in a team that he’s very comfortable in, a lot of things are built up around him, so for anyone, even a Max of a few years ago, to go in against the Max of now is extremely difficult.

“So I don’t think it’s a question of ‘are you scared or not scared?’ I don’t think I’d ever be scared of going against anyone, but even if you enter a team are you in a position to challenge someone straight away and are comfortable to do that?

 “I think it’s a no for any driver. It takes time to adapt and it takes time to get into place and if you want to go against the best driver in the world it’s not the best thing to do. It’s not a smart move to do.

“But I would love to race against Max, I’ve enjoyed some of the battles that we’re had, and looking even more forward to the battles we’re going to have this year.”

Along with that consideration, Norris also believes that McLaren’s incredible turnaround in 2023 shows the team has “what it takes” to challenge for the titles in the near future, allowing him to create his “own chapter” and be part of the journey to glory, instead of just joining a team that’s already on top and just taking a bite of the cherry.

“To go from out of the points pretty much every single race to being probably the closest team on average to the most successful car that’s ever been in Formula 1, I think showed me enough, and showed everyone here at McLaren enough, that we have what it takes to challenge them.

“Therefore I want to create my own chapter and my own story of being with McLaren and turning the team around and being part of that journey.

“Of course there’s always interest and in the back of my mind it’s always like ‘what would happen if I went here and what could I achieve’ and so forth.

“But I’m happy with where I am, I’m comfortable and I think in order to achieve a world championship you need to be happy and comfortable with where you’re at and I don’t think you are able to achieve that by suddenly switching to another team and finding that within a year. So that’s why I think it’s best.”

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