Lando Norris believes McLaren can maintain a challenge for third place in the Constructors’ Championship over the season.
McLaren head into their home British GP this week behind only Mercedes and Red Bull in the standings after a start to the season in which they have already achieved three top-five race results — including a maiden F1 podium for Norris in Austria.
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Back on the rise after a fourth-placed finish last year, McLaren currently sit a point clear of Racing Point and 14 ahead of Ferrari, who have slipped away from their usual frontrunning rivals at the start of this campaign.
Speaking to Sky Sports News at the McLaren’s Woking Technology Centre ahead of the forthcoming Silverstone double-header, Norris spoke with optimism about their prospects of remaining a threat behind the current top two.
“We can definitely fight for it,” said Norris, in an interview with Craig Slater.
“It’s hard to say. The first two races of the season were extremely good. Overachieving in some ways and beating a lot of cars that were quicker than us.
“End of, they were quicker than us — but we did a better job in terms of strategy and racing and not crashing and not getting penalties. We overachieved and we did better than our pace shows.
“[Hungary] was a bit more of a realistic outlook on results — maybe not so much on my side because I did the mistake at the start and put myself in a worse position than I should have been – but I think we’ve got a very good opportunity to fight for it this year.
“Last year that was the top three gone and then everyone else [was fighting for fourth]. Now we have a better opportunity to be there and fight and maybe swing it back and forth.
McLaren qualified as the fifth-quickest team last time out in Hungary and a realistic Norris acknowledged: “I don’t think we have a car that we can just say ‘yeah, we are going to be third or we can challenge second or first even’.
“We are still a long way from that, but we are in that position where we can say we are going to fight for it [third].
“We can get good points so maybe some weekends we’ll do better, some weekend they’ll do better, but it’s nice being able to think of it in that way and not just being ‘best of the rest’, for example.”
Norris, who had an epic wheel-to-wheel battle with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in Budapest, added: “I like how tight it is, how much action there is, being able to fight different cars that last year we dreamt of fighting.”
NORRIS ON THAT GARAGE PHOTO AND MATURING AS A DRIVER
After headline-grabbing performances at the season’s opening double-header in Austria – when he twice starred on the race’s final lap to gain third and fifth places respectively – Norris finished only 13th in Hungary after his race was undone by a poor start in the wet.
Yet, despite that disappointment, the 20-year-old took the time to help his mechanics build down his MCL35 car in the garage on Sunday evening. As Norris explained, it was neither a first for him nor simply a show for social media.
“It’s something I’ve done a few times before,” he said. “I guess I started doing it in 2018 when I first was with McLaren. When I was at some of the race tracks where I wasn’t driving [in F2], I’d do FP1 in Japan or America, and I would be flying around with the mechanics and engineers.
“Then on Sunday night, normally when I was racing, I would be flying home. But last weekend and on other weekends the flight has always been the next day or on Tuesday, so there’s no reason why I would go to hotel and watch Netflix when I could take an F1 car apart!
“It’s something I guess I’ve always loved doing, a bit hands on, since I was very young. But the bonus is I can spend time with the mechanics, have laughs and we all get along so and it’s just good fun.
“Especially this time. It was three very long weeks for them and it was just a better opportunity to go and help them.”
With teammate Carlos Sainz leaving for Ferrari at the end of the year, Norris will be the driver with the more experience of the team when Daniel Ricciardo joins for 2021.
But Norris says that, irrespective of Sainz’s departure, taking more of a leading role represents the next required part of his development as an F1 driver.
“A lot of that is not just by helping the mechanics after the race, a lot of that is stuff we do back here [at the MTC] or stuff I do when we’re at the track, talking about things and thinking ahead in the future. I feel that already but not just for the fact of Carlos leaving,” said the 20-year-old.
“I feel like that’s just the way I kind of have to mature in some ways and learn about Formula 1.
“Last year was a big learning year for me in trying to be integrated to the team and learning a lot of things. Whereas this year is a bit more about leading my way and telling them what I want. In some ways being, not arrogant, but arrogant in the way of saying ‘I want this guys’ and ‘I need this’ [on the car] and so on, and not being the nice guy saying ‘yes’ to everything!”
This article originally appeared on Sky Sports and was reproduced with permission.