McLaren say they will need to “adapt to maintain the standards” when Daniel Ricciardo joins as Lando Norris’ team-mate for 2021.
Rather than being a reflection of Ricciardo’s ability, it is simply a reference to the tight relationship Norris enjoyed with Carlos Sainz over the last two years before the Spaniard’s move to Ferrari.
While still viewing each other as the first rival they had to beat, Norris and Sainz were able to engage in good-humoured, friendly banter which made for an upbeat atmosphere in the team.
It helped on the track too, where they were closely matched and both made sizeable contributions towards McLaren finishing third in the 2020 constructors’ World Championship standings.
— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) December 14, 2020
Ricciardo’s arrival brings another big personality and while McLaren see his partnership with Norris as being “similar” to the association with Sainz, they believe it will still require some work to ensure the drivers operate smoothly in tandem.
McLaren’s racing director Andrea Stella said: “The most important thing from my point of view is that we preserve the conditions we created to allow that high level of collaboration between Carlos and Lando.
“But it’s not just about preserving those conditions, we may have to adapt them. Daniel is not Carlos and his relationship with Lando will be different.
“It may be similar, but it will not be the same and we need to be mindful of that and adapt with a view to maintain the standards.
“After two years of racing in F1 and having been so evenly matched with Carlos, Lando has shown he has all the qualities to become a top driver in the sport. We head into 2021 with a very exciting and competitive driver line-up.”
McLaren’s technical director James Key, meanwhile, worked with Ricciardo at Toro Rosso in 2012-13 and fully expects him to be a great asset to the team.
“He’s an excellent driver to work with,” said Key. “He will have accumulated plenty of experience and knowledge since I last worked with him, so I expect he will be several steps ahead of where he was back then in terms of what he will bring to the team.
“He arrives as a proven race winner and someone who can go toe-to-toe with the very best drivers.
“Daniel is very easy to get on with but he’s hugely determined and that has a positive effect on any team.
“He will be a great reference point for us and, together with Lando, we will have one of the strongest driver pairings in the paddock.”