Lando Norris, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Norris: McLaren have closed on leaders and can gain “free lap time” from power unit

2021 F1 season

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Lando Norris is encouraged by the progress McLaren has made at the start of the new season and expects further gains in the coming races.

He took the chequered flag fourth in Bahrain behind both Mercedes drivers and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Sergio Perez took fifth in the other Red Bull having started from the pit lane.

Norris said the first race of the season shows McLaren have closed the gap to the top two teams since last year.

“We still finished ahead of Perez, although he had a few problems and maybe he would have been a little bit further up,” said Norris. “But we qualified ahead of him more because [although] he didn’t make any big mistakes he just couldn’t put it together.

“We’re close. We’re not miles away from Mercedes and Red Bull comparing to last season. I think we’ve closed the gap quite a bit and hopefully at some tracks we can close even more. It’s good.”

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly outqualified both McLaren drivers but failed to score after damaging his front wing while battling Daniel Ricciardo. Norris acknowledged his rival’s early setback disguised how great a threat that team might be in the future.

Analysis: F1 field closes up as Mercedes lose two seconds in four months
“It’s hard to say if we’re easily best of the rest,” he said. “We don’t know what the pace of the AlphaTauri was like.”

McLaren has switched from Renault to Mercedes power this year and had little opportunity to prove the installation of the new hardware due to the reduced amount of testing prior to the new season. Norris believes the team can still make gains in this area.

“I think the car’s good. It showed a lot of good points, some bad points and things we clearly need to work on, both from engine but also from the [power unit] side of things. And that’s not easy, but there’s some free lap time, let’s say, and things which make our lives as drivers much easier. Then we can do even better.

“So I think we’ve got a bit of work to do on Saturdays, probably even more so than on Sundays. But still on Sundays there’s a lot of things to work on and things to make the car even quicker.”

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12 comments on “Norris: McLaren have closed on leaders and can gain “free lap time” from power unit”

  1. Riciardo not looking foolish at all right now.

    Merc power, high rake, good drivers, i would think a victory could happen through some luck.

    1. @jureo I think staying would have been a huge mistake, they’ve made no progress in 3 years at Renault. McLaren were the only option for hi really and it feels a Good fit.

      1. no progress? Really?
        Ricciardo more than doubled his 2019 points in less races last year and could’ve done even more if not for some bad luck.

        Alpine doesn’t look too much worse than Mclaren in Alonso’s rusted hands.
        If anything, he took the safety route as Renault can pull the plug and leave out of a sudden as they have done numerous times in the past.

    2. high rake? mclaren were the first team to copy mercedes, they just have a much improved PU.

  2. The Renault PU hasn’t exactly been the least powerful in the recent past, so I don’t think the supplier change has changed things massively for them in this regard.

    1. So even though one of the drivers has just literally said it’s better you’re still making up stuff. Smh

  3. It would be interesting to hear how much difference is there between the engines (Renault and Mercedes). Like how they handle, can they feel the power difference or which one is easier to work on?

    1. @qeki Me too, but I guess the “free lap time” comment means they haven’t turned it all the way up yet so too early to compare.

      I read somewhere else Norris said the new McLaren fits Ricciardo’s style better, but that Lando was happy with how he’s adjusted his style to fit, which is promising as adaptability is one of the big differentiators at this level, isn’t it.

  4. We’re close. We’re not miles away from Mercedes and Red Bull comparing to last season.

    Norris finished 46 seconds behind Hamilton, about half a lap (2.7 km – or about 1.7 miles) . So he’s not wrong per se but it isnt exactly close, Bottas still having a comfortable free pitstop.
    It’s nice to see their confidence but it’s still a long way to go.

    1. add the sc to that and it was far from close, more like on par with abu dhabi, as bahrain is clearly not as demanding car wise.

      1. Safety car was in first laps of the race sonhad minimal effect on resetting times.

        Hamilton and Verstappen were all out till the end of the race while Norris could manage the gap toward Perez/Leclerc.

        They improved significantly. Probably at least 3-4 tenths in race pace toward Mercedes.

  5. When we go to Silverstone, it’s on.

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