Norris: McLaren need ‘two big steps’ to enter F1 2024 fight

4 months ago
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Lando Norris believes that McLaren must take “two big steps” to battle the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari despite a points-scorer start to the Formula 1 season for the team.

Finishing sixth, Norris was the leading McLaren in the Bahrain Grand Prix as team-mate Oscar Piastri crossed the line in eighth to secure a double-points finish.

The Briton started the race from seventh but with the benefit of DRS on Lap 3, was able to swiftly pass the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso on the run down to Turn 1.

Norris’ swift overtake on the two-time champion proved decisive as it allowed Piastri to follow suit just one lap later, although the Australian lost out to Lewis Hamilton.

Although Norris was able to reel in George Russell in the final stint, the Briton came up two seconds short of clinching fifth and lagged 23s behind Carlos Sainz in third.

“I think for our pace to still be very similar to Mercedes is a good thing,” said Norris. “At times I thought we could challenge the Ferrari, but Carlos, I think, showed what the Ferrari’s potential was today.

“We were close to Mercedes, I don’t think we had any advantage over them. The pace was so similar that as soon as I got into the dirty air, I just couldn’t have enough of an advantage to get a chance to overtake or even get within DRS.”

“But maybe after yesterday, I expected a little bit more,” he continued. “But when I say a bit more, there’s a big position change, but not a big lap time change. You know, one and a-half-tenths yesterday was four positions.

“Honestly, I didn’t think it would change too much today. I think we’re where we expected to be and that’s a good start to the season.”

Despite being pleased with the MCL38’s baseline performance, Norris admitted that there was still work to be done before McLaren could become a regular challenger.

“There’s a lot of areas we need to focus on still to improve if we want to be more consistent and challenge, but considering it’s a track we struggle with still, the fact we’re so close to Mercedes is still a good sign for us that some tracks we’ll be able to be ahead,” he added.

Norris disagreed with the suggestion that Red Bull was “on another planet” at the Bahrain International Circuit, quipping: “I mean, they weren’t – Carlos wasn’t far behind.

“They [Red Bull] are always very good on race pace. And this track, you need to be good on tyres because it’s so abrasive. So I’m thinking Ferrari did a good job, but Ferrari are always strong here as a characteristic.

“But they’re clearly still ahead, that’s for sure. . I think when you look at yesterday, they weren’t obviously ahead. I think Charles had the quickest lap. So maybe between them they can battle a little bit and I think that’ll be good for everyone.

“Still the race pace is where Red Bull are so strong and so dominant, Max is so dominant. But yeah, there’s a big step between us and Ferrari on a circuit like this and then another step from Ferrari to Red Bull.

“We’ve got two big steps to make up, but starting with one will be good. I meant to say Max, does that feel achievable making that step? To Ferrari, yes. And again, like the certain tracks we’re going to do it, certain tracks we’re not and as we change more things”.…Read more by Sam Tomlinson

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