Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris in ‘similar’ and ‘frustrating’ positions at Ferrari and McLaren

Sam Cooper
Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc.

Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc.

Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris have been told to “knuckle down” despite both of their frustrations with the current performances of their team.

Both drivers are seen as the stars of the future but in 2023, they will be less than happy with how the first three races have panned out.

For Leclerc, he has twice found himself back in the garage before the race is over and in the one grand prix he did manage to finish, he did so behind team-mate Carlos Sainz in P7.

While Norris’ P6 in Melbourne was his highlight of the year so far, the first two races were a nightmare for the 23-year-old and the MCL60 does not currently look capable of challenging for the P4 Constructors’ Championship spot let alone pushing for the podium.

So then, what do both drivers who are tied down to long-term contracts do? Well in the mind of F1 journalist Tom Clarkson, the answer is to get their head down.

“Everything about the first two races makes me feel that Ferrari are a little bit undercooked at the minute,” he said on the F1 Nation podcast. “They’re just not getting anything quite right. The car isn’t quite fast enough. Charles is already expressing a little bit of frustration over the radio as he did in Saudi.

“It just feels that they’re half a step behind Aston Martin and two steps behind Red Bull at the moment. Such is the relentless pace of Formula 1, can Ferrari make up the difference?

“I see Lando’s situation as very similar to Charles Leclerc’s at Ferrari. They’ve both been in Formula 1 for roughly the same amount of time, they both want to take the next step. Lando wants to start winning races, Charles wants to start winning World Championships.

“So what do you do if you’re Charles? What do you do if you’re Lando? I think you’ve just got to knuckle down and try and help motivate the people around you to do everything they can to improve the car.”

Lack of realistic options for either suggest Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are wise to stay put for the time being

With three races down and plenty more to go, there is little more either Leclerc or Norris can do than to take Clarkson’s advice and just get on it but when it comes to the end of the season, that is a different matter.

Starting with Norris, it is clear that his talent is beginning to, if it has not already, outgrow McLaren’s current performance and while it was once the home of World Champions, it has been a long time since the team was competing for, let alone winning, a title.

The question is though, just where exactly does Norris go that is a genuine step upwards? The obvious answer is Red Bull but if you are Christian Horner and co., would you be willing to rock the apple cart?

Presuming Red Bull cruise to both championships this year as it looks like will be the case, there is little need for the team to make changes especially when both Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen are under contract for next year. Of course the opportunity to get a talent like Norris is tempting but the question also remains as to how that will affect Verstappen’s happiness in the team.

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Mercedes are another potential destination for Norris but that almost entirely hinges on whether Lewis Hamilton decides to call it quits at the end of this season or not. While he has yet to sign an extension to his deal, there is every indication that Hamilton is not prepared to retire before winning an eighth World Championship so it would come as no surprise to see him lining up on the grid next year.

That then would leave Aston Martin, as well as Ferrari, as the only team that would be a definite step up for Norris but with Fernando Alonso performing as he is and Lance Stroll’s seat secured, there is no room at that particular inn either.

Perhaps then, a move to Ferrari is Norris’ best bet but even that comes with complications. For starters, he will have no doubt watched on these past few years as the team give Leclerc some stress wrinkles not commonly associated with someone who has lived in Monaco his whole life and also both of Leclerc and Sainz are signed on until the end of 2024.

It seems then that both Leclerc and Norris have found themselves in an uncomfortable position of seemingly hitting a glass ceiling but with little way to move past it.