Lando Norris, McLaren, Singapore, 2023

2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #3: Lando Norris

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For a Formula 1 driver so highly rated by his own team and respected by his peers, Lando Norris is so self-deprecating that he would probably argue against himself being ranked so highly on this list.

After an outstanding season in 2022 where Norris had been in a tier of his own, so far ahead of his fellow midfield rivals but too far behind the leading teams to challenge them, the McLaren driver was desperate to get closer to the fight at the front in 2023.

Which is why it was so frustrating for him and McLaren that they emerged from the pre-season as a
team in crisis. McLaren CEO Zak Brown openly admitted the team’s new MCL60 had missed major development targets and that its aerodynamic performance was “not where we would like it to be”. Norris and rookie team mate Oscar Piastri were struggling to get out of Q1, let alone fighting for points.

But despite expecting a big struggle at the start of the season, Norris managed to somehow drag his car into Q2 and into an unexpected 11th place at the opening qualifying of the season in Bahrain. But then in the grand prix, a pneumatic leak destroyed his race, forcing him to pit six times to constantly top up fluid as his first Sunday of the season turned into little more than a test session. The following round in Saudi Arabia was little better. He was knocked out of Q1 in 19th after breaking his car’s steering arm in a brush with the wall, then suffered damage from debris on the opening lap which compromised his evening and left him running towards the back.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Albert Park, 2023
After a poor start to season, Norris took first points at Melbourne
After a miserable start to the season, Norris and McLaren sat at the very bottom of the championship. A long, difficult season appeared to lie ahead, but the next round in Australia transformed McLaren’s fortunes. Norris qualified 13th but found himself running inside the top 10 for most of the race and gained two positions when the Alpine pair crashed in the final restart, claiming an unexpected but not undeserved top six finish.

Another points haul followed in Baku where he took the ‘best of the rest’ grid slot of seventh in Friday’s qualifying session, then finished in ninth – again, the highest-placed driver behind the Red Bulls, Ferraris, Aston Martins and Mercedes. The McLaren struggled in Miami with both Norris and Piastri eliminated from Q1, but a knock from Nyck de Vries at the start of the race caused damage that cost Norris around three tenths of a second per lap, leaving him vulnerable to pretty much everyone who came up behind him.

McLaren had been working overtime at their Woking factory on improving their car and it appeared as though they had made a major step forward in Spain when Norris qualified third on the grid in tricky conditions. But a clash with Lewis Hamilton at the start destroyed any chances of further points after he was forced to pit with front with damage. More points went begging in Montreal the next round when he fell from ninth to 13th after a five second time penalty was applied for driving too slowly behind an earlier Safety Car in a cheeky bid to not lose time behind Piastri in the pits.

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But when Norris arrived at the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian Grand Prix, it was with a massively overhauled McLaren at his disposal. The result of months of hard work from his team, the updated McLaren was instantly effective. He finished fifth after overtaking Hamilton but was promoted to fourth having been one of the drivers to avoid copping a track limits penalty. The weekend was a major boost for Norris and his team, but even he likely did not expect what was to follow.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Silverstone, 2023
Upgraded MCL60 allowed Norris to lead at home
In his home grand prix, Norris was in exceptional form. Silverstone’s high-speed corners were almost tailor made for the revised McLaren and Norris proved it by securing a front row start in qualifying, just a tenth behind Max Verstappen with Piastri behind him. When the lights went out, Norris brought the British fans to their feet by leaping ahead of Verstappen and into the lead in what must have been the highlight of his F1 career to date. Although he could not keep the faster Red Bull behind him, Norris showed remarkable skill and poise through the end of the race. Despite having harder, slower tyres than Hamilton behind him for the late Safety Car restart, Norris held his nerve over the final laps to secure an excellent second place – his first podium of the year.

Having been thrown into the thick of the action at the front, Norris proved Silverstone was far more than just a one-off by qualifying third and finishing second at the Hungaroring – a track that was never supposed to suit his car. After the summer break, he stuck the McLaren on the front row again at Zandvoort – another circuit that he would not have expected to be strong at. But a gamble to stay out on slick tyres on a wet track proved the wrong call and he fell to 15th before recovering to finish seventh.

Another raft of aero upgrades were fitted onto his car for Singapore and Norris once again made full use of them. He ran third and gained second when the Mercedes drivers pitted, then fought skilfully to keep a faster George Russell behind him all the way to the final lap, when Russell eventually crashed himself out of the running to finish just behind good friend Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Lando Norris

GP start2 (x3)19
GP finish2 (x6)17 (x4)

His Japanese Grand Prix was also very strong. Although beaten to the front row by Piastri, Norris swept around his team mate at the start into second. There was little he could do to challenge Verstappen for victory but Norris finished almost as far ahead of his team mate as Verstappen did ahead of him. His Qatar Grand Prix weekend was overshadowed slightly by Piastri winning the sprint race and finishing ahead of him in the grand prix, but Norris was once again on the podium. He returned to the front row in the United States just behind Charles Leclerc and took the lead at the start, heading the field for 21 of the first 27 laps until Verstappen inevitably caught and passed him. Although he finished third, he inherited second place after Hamilton’s disqualification – his sixth podium of the year and fourth consecutive appearance on the rostrum.

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After starting 17th on the grid in Mexico, Norris made 14 competitive on-track overtakes to climb up into the top five at the finish. He then secured sprint race pole in Brazil but could not beat Verstappen into the Senna Esses at the start, settling for second place. He made up for his average Saturday start with a superb one on Sunday, leaping up from what was effectively fifth into second and largely matching Verstappen’s race pace until the final stint to take another second place and final podium of the season.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Interlagos, 2023
No one finished second more often than Norris
Despite having been dead last after round two, Norris headed into the final round in Abu Dhabi in the fight to finish fourth in the drivers’ championship. Although McLaren were not as rapid as they had been at other rounds throughout the second half of the season, Norris showed strong race pace and finished in a respectable fifth place ahead of his impressive young team mate, finishing the year just one point off from a three-way tie for fourth.

As solid a season as Norris had put together in 2023, it was far from a flawless one. He committed a few too many errors during qualifying – particularly over the latter half of the year. Mistakes in Spa, Qatar, Mexico and Las Vegas left him starting lower than he should have been and he grew vocally annoyed it himself for his inconsistency under pressure in qualifying – so much so that he could not even find joy in the lap that brought him sprint race pole in Interlagos due to a slight error in the opening corners.

His most significant error came in Las Vegas, where he crashed out early on after losing control over a bump on the third lap. While the shunt was excused as a perfect storm of circumstances, the fact he was the only one to make such an error did not paint him in the best light.

But ultimately, these were a handful of blips in what was otherwise another very impressive year for Norris. In a season dominated by Verstappen and Red Bull where competition behind them was especially fierce, it was telling that Norris ended 2023 with more second place finishes than any other driver – including Sergio Perez.

Norris now sits equal with Nick Heidfeld in having the most podium finishes without a grand prix victory – 13. Whether he remains there, extends that record or finally breaks it in 2024 seems to be solely down to whether McLaren can give him the car to do so.

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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...

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27 comments on “2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #3: Lando Norris”

  1. A bit hard to work out who deserves to be 2nd. Alonso had a rather underwhelming end to his season. In the last 5 races, he scored just 23 points. Over the same period, stroll, who is rated 19th scored 27. You really have to question weather stroll had a good end to his season or the opposite for alonso.

    1. That is VERY specifically cherry-picking a period when Alonso had two DNFs. He was on course to finish 8th or 9th in the USGP behind two drivers who were later disqualified for illegal floors, so a 6th or 7th place finish, which changes that whole story.

      The only race of those five where Stroll actually beat Alonso was Las Vegas – where Alonso was one of several drivers caught out by the lack of grip on the Las Vegas first corner (something that hit several drivers and says more about the circuit than them). Even having spun and been hit and starting from the back, he recovered to 9th.

      1. The point is he indeed had some unusual mistakes and underwhelming performances later on this season, and if you paid attention to it you obviously wonder whether he deserves 2nd place, norris made mistakes too obviously. If it weren’t for those few mistakes later on in the season I’d have no doubt about alonso deserving 2nd.

      2. I would also argue that stroll possibly did deserve to beat alonso in mexico. His issue was questionable in mexico, as he barely lost any pace, and maintained the same distance behind stroll, and only retired right near the end. It has been said by button before that Alonso has retired when on course to finish behind a team mate at times, and there didn’t look to be a good reason to retire – he seemd to be asking for it. I still think it was obvious that Alonso just wan’t that good over the last few races, and stroll was more or less just as good / bad. Alonso also hasn’t been good in the sprints this year – stroll has infact looked at least as good here over the whole season. Not saying I’m totally against Alonso getting 2nd overall, but the fact that Stroll was pretty much as good in the sprints and that Alonso made 2 big mistakes does make it a bit questionable.

  2. I assumed he’d get ranked 2nd, so wrong by a single position.

    1. I think there’s a case for it: he had an impressive year. Could probably have gone anywhere from 2nd to 5th.

      Hopefully next year, rather than Aston Martin being strong in the first half and McLaren being strong in the second half, we’ll see them both strong throughout the season and really find out what Norris/Alonso are made of. For now, they’ll both be feeling the season feeling good about themselves – and we’re waiting to see what they do next.

  3. Stephen Taylor
    22nd December 2023, 9:50

    You could make an argument for Lando being ranked anywhere between 2nd and 6th tbh. As a fan of Lando I am proud of his season overall but it is so frustrating Piasti got that Sprint win before him . I really think if Lando can win a Grand Prix early next season he’ll find new confidence.

  4. Frankly I’m a bit underwhelmed by Lando and by Charles Leclerc.

    There’s no doubt that they’re fast, but both seem to have made an art form out of making mistakes that cost them places in qualy and/or races.

    I really hope I’m wrong for Lando’s sake, but I just can’t see him winning a race before his team mate does.

    1. One of the things I enjoyed about this season is almost all the drivers seemed to end up on their limit wrangling cars that didn’t quite want to be wrangled.

      Every driver but Max had race-ending crashes (most more than one): all the write-ups so far have been “great driving, great performances. Need to note X…”.

      So yes: Norris, Leclerc, Hamilton and Alonso have all caused crashes that put them out of races, as well as others that cost them places. But that doesn’t stop them being top 5; doesn’t mean they didn’t have great seasons; and frankly as an F1 watcher, top drivers on the limit is exactly what I want to see.

      1. Alonso haven’t caused race ending crash simce 2010!!

        1. Wasn’t aware, that’s an impressive stat!

      2. Hakkinen also was gaining a reputation for mistakes in his first few seasons. Even had a race ban if I remember correctly plus his very serious accident in Adelaide. Once he got his first race win then it all seemed to fall into place albeit with the help of a Newey rocketship…

        1. ” Once he got his first race win then it all seemed to fall into place albeit with the help of a Newey rocketship…”
          For about one season. In 1999 he binned it at Imola and Monza, spun at France and was driving absolutely lackluster at the Nurburgring until it dried up. The fact Irvine managed to mess up that season, says more about how inconsistent Ferrari and Irvine were without Schumacher.

      3. Putting Sainz’ (eventual) withdrawal from the race in Belgium on him, rather than the damage Piastri caused seems a bit off.

        Verstappen had a great season, and was absolutely the best on the grid, but he wasn’t the only one to keep it clean.

    2. They both need a ‘Monaco 2018’ moment that set Verstappen straight. Verstappen has never been slow, but he was erratic, and his start to the 2018 season was a mess. After that race, he’s had his eyes fixed on the prize and been driving like a champion – waiting only for a car to enable him to put that into practice. And he’s done exactly that.

      Norris and Leclerc are not racing like champions. They can’t afford to wait to start until their cars are a match for the Red Bull. We saw last year how Leclerc had a ridiculously huge 46 point lead over Verstappen after race #3, and then Verstappen was back in the championship lead after race #6, despite still having one more DNF than Leclerc.

      It’ll be interesting to see if Norris, should he finally win, can build on that or if it’s going to prove a mere highlight. Especially if Piastri can learn from his rookie season and can start to get a handle on these Pirelli tyres.

      1. I disagree both Leclerc and Norris are trying to extract Red Bull level performance from cars that don’t have it. When Lando gets his first win he will relax. When they get a title challenging car they will be. Lando won’t just tbe a one win wonder in my opinion. Max could also progress at his own pace a lot more as he’s had team mates that haven’t really been able to hold a candle to him since Ricciardo’s end of 2018 depature from Red Bull.

  5. Assuming Verstappen and Alonso are 1 & 2:

    End of Season Racefans Rank, (Average Racefans Race Rank & Rating*), [Championship Standing & Points]
    *Not calculated on Abu Dhabi rating page I have updated the Las Vegas averages with the Abu Dhabi race rating

    1 (1: 7.65) [1: 575] Verstappen (RB)
    2 (2: 6.4) [4: 206] Alonso (AM)
    3 (2: 6.4) [6: 205] Norris (Mc)
    4 (4: 6.29) [4: 206] Leclerc (Fe)
    5 (9: 5.96) [3: 234] Hamilton (Me)
    6 (6: 6.11) [13: 27] Albon (Wi)
    7 (11: 5.9) [9: 97] Piastri (Mc)
    8 (8: 6) [8: 175] Russell (Me)
    9 (14: 5.62) [7: 200] Sainz (Fe)
    10 (13: 5.75) [11: 62] Gasly (Al)
    11 (10: 5.95) [12: 58] Ocon (Al)
    12 (12: 5.75) [15: 10] Bottas (AR)
    13 (15: 5.55) [16: 9] Hulkenberg (Ha)
    14 (17: 5.29) [14: 17] Tsunoda (AT)
    15 (16: 5.29) [17: 6] Zhou (AR)
    16 (7: 6) [20: 2] Lawson (AT)
    17 (5: 6.21) [17: 6] Ricciardo (AT)
    18 (18: 4.91) [19: 3] Magnussen (Ha)
    19 (19: 4.54) [10: 74] Stroll (AM)
    20 (20: 4.51) [2: 285] Perez (RB)
    21 (22: 4.09) [21: 1] Sargeant (Wi)
    22 (21: 4.2) [22: 0] de Vries (AT)

    Rating part time Alpha Tauri drivers is very difficult. Ricciardo and Lawson had the 5th and 7th highest average race rankings yet dropped to 17th and 16th in the end of year rankings. Somehow they swapped places and dropped loads of places but still ahead of Magnussen etc. Even de Vries on average rated more than Sargeant

    Russell jumped ahead of Hamilton on race ratings (8th and 9th) in Abu Dhabi yet finished way behind in the points and was 3 places behind in driver rankings. Was Hamilton lucky? / Russell unlucky? – were the race ratings too harsh on Hamilton?

    Sainz’s average race ratings left him 14th, 0.67 points per race behind Leclerc yet only finished 6 points behind in the standings. He also jumped up to 9th in the end of season.

    Piastri’s average race rating put him 11th below Russell, Ocon and 2 AT drivers and scored over a hundred points less than Norris but somehow was ranked 7th.

    Ocon’s average ratings were higher than Gasly’s but ended up behind him on season rankings.

    Was extra focus given to qualifying results in the end of season but not in individual race rankings? In race rankings is there a pressure on the reviewer to rank one teammate higher than the other leading to skewed ratings? I.e. is it hard to ever give Albon a low ranking if Sargeant is doing worse and if Sainz is fractionally slower than Leclerc, he drops a whole point.

    1. Do you have a breakdown of those ratings in a table somewhere? It would probably be possible to explore some of those examples if we have it all laid out.

      My hunch is in the full-season rankings, the site has accepted that all drivers made a few crashes, and mostly discounted that – rating people on their pace and achievement across the season. Whereas in the individual race ratings, a race-ending crash will torpedo your rating by 5 or 6 points. So possibly the individual race ratings will penalise weekends with big mistakes more.

      On Lawson/Ricciardo, individual ratings will always just ask “how were they for this race?” and assess them on those terms – whereas in the full year results there’s been more of a “where does their body of work sit?”, which naturally puts them lower.

    2. Sainz’ rating of a 5.6 – pretty much the worst possible passing grade – is very unfair and harsh. But, the ratings overall do reflect a rather problematic situation; there just isn’t a whole lot of super exciting stuff happening on the grid.

      Verstappen is in a league of his own among his generation. Hamilton and Alonso are two giants from the old school, but Verstappen so far has no reason to be bothered by the likes of Norris, Leclerc, Russell and others.

      1. “Russell jumped ahead of Hamilton on race ratings (8th and 9th) in Abu Dhabi yet finished way behind in the points and was 3 places behind in driver rankings. Was Hamilton lucky? / Russell unlucky? – were the race ratings too harsh on Hamilton?”

        I think Will needs to seriously look at himself regarding how he rates Hamilton. The fact that Russell was ahead of Hamilton in race ratings is a sign that he is marking Hamilton way too harshly. Russell having a better average race rating than Hamilton, made no sense and didn’t reflect reality.

        1. It’s also partly caused by the chosen system. If a 10 or 9 is basically a once in a decade event, that leaves 8 for the sort of annual exceptional races, a 7 for a strong race, a 6 for a good race… and then everything else is a fail. That’s not a lot of room for nuance, and one or two bad races drags the whole thing down. So it’s no surprise that pretty much everyone is hovering between 5,5 and 6,5.

          Since F1 drivers rarely ‘fail’, an ABCDF system allows for much more nuance in rating the good races. You can even add an S-tier like the Japanese do and put the super-rare historic against all odds wins there, leaving A or A+ for more frequent but still exceptional performances.

          And yes, some drivers seem to get rated quite negatively (Hamilton perhaps, and in particular Sainz).

          1. Actually if you look back at all 9s given, you will see it’s 9 that is the sort of annual exceptional race, 8 is the standard perfect performance, 7 if you made a noticeable slightly costly mistake over the weekend, 6 decent performance.

          2. Also, perez, as bad as he’s been, always gave me the feeling he was rated very harshly in the race by race ratings: take a race weekend that wasn’t terrible, you’ll notice his rating always tended to be at the lower end of where it could’ve been.

  6. I personally had Lando in P2 for the year. His string of second places was more impressive to me than Alonso’s collection of P3.

    The big issue, by far, is that whenever Mclaren are in a position to win something, Norris finds himself behind his teammate.

    Ricciardo at Monza. Piastri’s second in the Spa sprint race. And piastri’s win in Qatar.

    1. He was ahead of his team mate in russia 2021 and would’ve won if not for the rain in the last 5 laps, despite having hamilton behind on a faster car; even then his driving was exceptional in the wet, only the strategic choice let him down, and let’s say the rain hadn’t intensified, then his choice would’ve been a winning one.

  7. Yup, agree with all that, i watched it live.

    Just saying, winners find a way to win. Its what they do.

    After seven P2s, Lando needs to win, especially when all three of his recent teammates have won . Ric, piasti, sainz.

    Its like this in all sports

  8. Best top I’ve seen made by any publication. For me it’s 100% accurate. Fernando was brilliant this season, so was Lando, but out of the two Fernando shined a bit more and made a couple more impressive performances. Best race of the season was Zandvoort where he showed what he’s capable of (even against Lando whom he easily overtook when rain kicked off). Also Fernando should’ve won Monaco if not for the butched strategy. In Canada he made it clear why he’s one of the greats. He needed to keep those tires in temp by running the qualy mode for a full race. So Max, Alonso and Norris is the obvious ranking in my view as well.

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