Lando Norris acknowledged “a podium always means something” in Formula 1, but one was not enough for him and McLaren in 2022.
Norris was the only driver outside of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes to earn a top-three finish all season, taking advantage of Charles Leclerc’s late unforced error to move up and earn a third place trophy at Imola.
But after the highs of taking four podiums in 2021, and having held onto hopes of moving forward under Formula 1’s new regulations in 2022, the McLaren driver felt somewhat short-changed by the season – claiming the whole team did not do a good enough job.
“A little bit,” Norris told reporters when asked if there was any meaning to be had in his place as the only non-top-three driver to take a podium in 2022, as per Motorsport.com.
“A podium always means something. It means something to me, means something to the team. But one isn’t enough.
“One is like, we got lucky, and all of this stuff. You want to feel like you deserve to be there every time and we deserved to be there for sure. We weren’t quick enough to be there. We were kind of way ahead of where we deserve to be.
“But yeah, one time isn’t enough for me. It’s not a good enough job by the whole team.”
Opening up about the season as a whole, the 23-year-old highlighted the team’s inconsistency as something to iron out over the close season, and that a “step” needs to be taken in performance as a whole for the 2023 season.
“We found it difficult,” he said. “We’ve been quite up and down. We’ve had a weekend like [Abu Dhabi] where we’ve been quick, and then we were in Brazil, which was one of our worst weekends of the whole season.
“We’ve had one of the biggest lows, and then maybe one of the best highs of the year in the final two weekends.
“So [there is] a lot of understanding still for us, a lot of learning. But we need to take a step next year, we have to take a step, and I feel like everyone’s putting in the effort to do so. Time will tell.”
Did McLaren and Lando Norris take a step backwards in 2022?
At face value? Yes. McLaren’s trajectory in the Constructors’ standings has gone from third, to fourth, to fifth in the past three seasons, and Norris’ points haul dropped from 160 last season to 122 this time around.
But given the massive regulation changes which took place in 2022, it did not seem so much that McLaren had taken a step back, it was more that Red Bull and Ferrari in particular found a way to leap well clear of the rest, with Mercedes later joining them as the season progressed.
Given the advantage those three teams had over the rest, it was often Norris who was left as ‘best of the rest’ behind the top three teams, feeding off what was available to him on any given race weekend.
It’s also worth noting that McLaren started in Bahrain well down the field and struggling enormously, so for Norris to have turned around his and the team’s form to take a podium by Imola was a remarkable enough feat in itself.
He is right, however, in believing the team need to make the next step forward next season. They have rebuilt their foundations after a few turbulent years, earned a race victory at Monza in 2021, multiple podiums, but there is still a big gap to bridge to the top three teams if they are to compete on a more regular basis.