Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, and Lando Norris, McLaren, Red Bull Ring, 2023

Norris relieved upgraded McLaren’s race pace was “better than I expected”

2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Lando Norris says McLaren’s upgrades for the Austrian Grand Prix meant their race pace was stronger than he expected.

He took the chequered flag in fifth place, which was his and McLaren’s best result of the 2023 season so far. It got even better after the race when penalties for other drivers moved him up to fourth.

McLaren had provided Norris with a raft of upgrades for the race weekend at the Red Bull Ring, but did not have enough parts to do the same for his team mate Oscar Piastri. Norris, who finished just under four seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin, said he had been worried that after a strong qualifying session, McLaren would not be be as competitive in the grand prix.

“I was a bit nervous coming into the race, honestly, that the race pace is going to let us down a lot today,” he admitted. “But actually it was better than I was expecting, which is a good surprise.

“[It’s] still not great – Fernando was clearly quicker at the end by quite a chunk every lap and I’m like almost crashing in every corner. But to be P5 shows that we’ve taken a good step forward so I’m very happy with that.”

Despite McLaren improving their race pace with their upgrades, Norris says the car still has many of the same difficulties he has been dealing with across the early part of the season.

“You just go to the limit of what the car can do on the next level,” he explained. “The car just goes quick around every corner, but the way you have to drive is exactly the same, which is I guess kind of our next issue to tackle.

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“Things that we’ve been complaining about all year are still the same, we’re just at a higher level. So I feel like I can be more confident if we can really tackle these issues. I feel like they’re letting us down a lot at the minute. So it’s not just about downforce, it’s about the handling and how you drive the car. Not just putting a load more downforce on it and kind of sending it. So more technical things we need to try and tackle and understand.

“When we do that, I’m confident we can definitely fight some of the quicker cars ahead of us.”

Heading into the team’s home grand prix at Silverstone next weekend, Norris says he has a lot of confidence about McLaren’s potential from the Red Bull Ring.

“The car’s quicker – it’s just quicker everywhere – it’s just very difficult to drive, still,” he said.

“If we had a nicer car to drive, one that was just a bit easier, a bigger working range, a bigger window to work in, then I think we can take another big step forward. Especially in consistency and race pace and so on – even in one-lap pace.

“So there’s plenty of things to work on and I think we’ve got more things coming next weekend, so I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves. I think this has always been our best race of the whole year, so I’ll make sure I’ll let everyone in the team know that, just to keep our heads down and then stay cool for the next weekend.”

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2023 Austrian 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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3 comments on “Norris relieved upgraded McLaren’s race pace was “better than I expected””

  1. Interesting. So is the issue more with the mechanical balance?

  2. It’s been really long since a Mclaren update worked well.. so glad to see that they’re making progress. They have the driver lineup to beat Alpine to 4th in the WCC, if they can just keep the development curve going.

    I feel some of the performance gain is being flattered by Norris’ strength on this circuit. We’ll have a more accurate comparison once we get to the British GP.

    1. Absolutely, it’s good to see them make progress. Especially because of their driver line-up.

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