Norris and Sainz spent two harmonious and productive years together at McLaren, culminating in the team finishing third in last season’s Constructors’ World Championship before the Spaniard moved to Ferrari.
Since then, the Briton has gone from strength to strength, establishing himself as comfortably 2021’s best-performing driver outside the Mercedes and Red Bull teams with three podium finishes and 101 points going into the British Grand Prix weekend.
In doing so, the 21-year-old has put Ricciardo firmly in the shade, gaining a sizeable edge on a vastly more experienced team-mate with seven F1 race wins to his credit but who has struggled to adjust to the MCL35M.
Many onlookers have been surprised about how the McLaren team dynamic has played out so far, but Norris insists there was nothing to fear from Ricciardo simply because of how strong a competitor his former colleague Sainz had been.
This team 🧡 pic.twitter.com/Zd8ni50xde
— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) July 6, 2021
“I knew Carlos was extremely good and he is proving it with Charles [Leclerc, at Ferrari],” Norris told AS. “He had the speed from the start and is close to being one of the best drivers in F1.
“I also know that compared to Carlos, I am well placed. In some areas he is better and in others I am better. What I lacked, which was the Sundays, I’ve strengthened this year.
“I wasn’t worried about Daniel’s arrival because I know Carlos is very good, at a similar level to Daniel.
“Daniel has won races and maybe that’s why some people value him above Carlos, because he hasn’t driven for a championship team before.
“It’s taking him a long time to get used to the car and the team. Some people need the perfect car and others are happier with an uncomfortable car. Daniel needs the confidence.
“The other car [Renault] allowed him more than this one and his driving style is very different from Carlos’s. That has to be taken into account and I can also learn a lot of things from him.”
Norris also discussed his improvements in qualifying this season, having been a contender for pole position on a couple of occasions including the Austrian Grand Prix when he started on the front row.
“I wish I could explain it and be clear about it, but there are a lot of things that happen naturally. It’s your instinct as a driver,” said Norris.
“I remember on some tracks Carlos was ahead of me in qualifying, but at the end of last season I felt very confident to get the best lap.
“It’s a feeling, you need the self-confidence to adapt quickly. Sometimes it works and you look like a hero, sometimes you make a mistake. But I don’t have an answer. If I knew how to do it, I could explain it to other drivers.
“Carlos wasn’t a bad qualifier, we both pushed each other hard and I also improved thanks to him. Although it was one of my strong points in karting and single-seaters, now it’s a bit the other way around, I’m better on Sundays.
“I’m comfortable driving at the limit, on Saturdays, and I never really liked driving under the limit to take care of tyres.”