Norris takes heart from Aston Martin’s recovery after slow start for McLaren

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Lando Norris believes the recoveries of Aston Martin and Ferrari in recent seasons show there is “no reason” why McLaren cannot turn around their challenging start to 2023.

Norris and team mate Oscar Piastri’s 2023 campaigns got off to difficult starts in Bahrain as McLaren struggled for pace relative to their midfield rivals. Piastri was eliminated from Q1 and retired early in the race, while Norris suffered a pneumatic system leak in his MCL60 which resulted in him pitting six times during the grand prix.

But despite the disappointing race, Norris found cause to be optimistic. He almost reached Q3 in qualifying, finishing 11th, a tenth of a second away from the top ten. Norris described his assessment of McLaren’s place in the pecking order is “tough, but realistic”.

“I think [we’re] in a place we probably expected to be altogether,” he said.

“One thing that’s not been surprising, but one thing that makes it even more difficult, is just how close it is and how many people we’re fighting against. Williams are in the mix more, Haas are in the mix more, Alfa Romeo in the mix more, so that’s made our lives even tougher.

“But from my point of view, P11 was a pretty decent result. I was a tenth-and-a-half to Stroll, who’s clearly much quicker than a tenth-and-a-half ahead of me. The lap ahead then was like a 1’30.8, which is four-tenths or something, which I definitely couldn’t achieve. I think we got everything out of the car, so where I am is where I think we kind of are.”

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Norris says McLaren have already begun to improve the MCL60 from the specification it was in during the pre-season test in Bahrain, which has brought “little” refinements to the drive-ability of the car.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a car that I’m still super-comfortable to just to go out and nail easily,” he explained. “I don’t think anyone’s car is going to be easy to drive. But definitely still tricky.

“Still a lot of thought has to go into each corner, every corner. ‘How can I maximise this?’ You’ve got to take it one corner at a time. So little things that we definitely pushed in the right direction a touch. But it was a touch and it needs several more steps.”

Norris points to Aston Martin, who suffered a disappointing start to the 2022 season before improving significantly through the season, as evidence that McLaren will have the opportunity to improve their own performance while the year goes by.

“I think we’ve clearly seen how big of a step Aston have taken from one year to another,” he said. “We clearly saw how big a step Ferrari took in 2021 to 2022.

“I know both of those were in the off-season and there’s maybe more potential to do such a big change. But there’s no reason why 50% or 75% of that can’t be done through the season. So I would like to think so.”

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McLaren, through Norris, were the only midfield team outside of the top three teams of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes to reach the podium last year. Norris says that reclaiming ground on their midfield rivals will only come from making bigger steps in development than the teams around them.

“We’ve got to improve more than them,” he reasoned. “I think it’s clear as that.

“Every driver on the grid here wants to win and you’re going to be frustrated until you’re in that position. So you’re going to be frustrated if you’re third, if you’re second and you’re going to be frustrated if you’re in 20th. So I don’t think it is frustration. It’s just you want to win, it’s as simple as that. And you are determined and that’s what everyone’s goal is.

“But at the same time, if I want to do that, I need to work as hard as I can now to help the team move in the right direction, give them the best advice and the best feedback that I can to do that, because that’s our goal. We want to win as a team.

“So it’s tough, I accept that. And yes, I want to win, but we all want to win and we know we are trying as hard as we can and we do know that we’ve got to take bigger steps forward than the other teams if we want to beat them.”

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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10 comments on “Norris takes heart from Aston Martin’s recovery after slow start for McLaren”

  1. I wonder what break clauses his contract has.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      13th March 2023, 13:25

      ha-ha ;-)

  2. Don’t count on it Lando. AM has Dan Fallows.

  3. Or Mclaren can end up following the Williams route to the back of the grid

  4. McLaren has won 1 race in the last decade. For a team with their facilities, their heritage and their place in F1 – that’s beyond bad. Yet look at the general trend in the coverage; it’s all positive, upbeat, and focused on them improving (or aspiring to).

    Now imagine if Ferrari had only won one single race since Fernando Alonso missed out on the 2012 title. Just one in all those years. It wouldn’t be the same, not even close.

    1. Mclaren really hit their low point in 2015… that was their new reality. They were the slowest team on the grid. They’ve only moved upwards since then (2017 maybe not so much), but 2018 to 2021 was definite progress. That’s why they were semi-upbeat and positive. Their trajectory at the end of 2021 gave hope to their fans for the next regulation change.

      2022 was the first season where they looked a significant step back… and now 2023 is a step back from 2022. I can’t see them being optimistic and upbeat after the start to this season. 2021 is their new reality, anything other than the 3rd fastest car on the grid will be looked as a step backwards for them.

      1. proud_asturian
        13th March 2023, 15:10

        You’ve obviously forgot that Manor were on the grid in 2015 then

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      13th March 2023, 13:29

      Perhaps it’s time for some whiplash? Einstein said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” but I actually would add st*pidity there.

  5. It is a disappointing picture for them so far but we have only had one race. I expect they will improve. They need to as they should not be worried about challenges from Alpha Romeo, Williams and Haas. Not with their resources, financial and otherwise. They should be on a par with Aston and Alpine at least and anything less is failure really.

  6. MB (@muralibhats)
    13th March 2023, 20:54

    Piastri would had been in an alpine 😆

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