Lando Norris explains his reasons behind long-term McLaren extension
Lando Norris has given a detailed explanation for signing a five-year McLaren deal. He believes the iconic British team will be contenders again from 2024.
F1’s No.4 announced his long-term deal with Zak Brown’s team last February, a decision that was questioned throughout the 2022 season. McLaren appeared to take a backwards step, giving up P4 on the Constructors’ standings to Alpine and earning just a single podium.
Norris crushed team-mate Daniel Ricciardo once again, with the Brit so dominant that the Australian lost his seat for 2023. Coming off two breakout seasons with the papaya team, many believe Norris already deserves a Championship-contending car.
The six-time podium finisher has already been linked with Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes drives in the future, with former World Champion Jenson Button among those surprised by the length of Norris’ deal.
The 23-year-old’s paddock pal Max Verstappen has also stated his desire to stay-put for the long-term at Red Bull, although Norris laughed off suggestions that their situations are comparable.
“I think you probably have more confidence saying that when you have won two titles,” Norris said, speaking to press including PlanetF1.com at the MCL60 launch.
“At the same time, I’m very happy with where I am. I signed such a long contract because I believe that those later years are when I’m going to be able to achieve things, which is 2024 and 25.
“If I signed a short contract that’s like (me saying) I think the team should win this year or last year, which just wasn’t the reality at all. So I signed the long contract because I was very happy with where I am, I see where the team are going.
“Down the line we have the new wind tunnel getting completed this year, a new simulator getting completed this year and a lot of new infrastructure. Those are the things we need in order to know we can compete fairly against the top few teams, which is something we are lacking in at the moment.
“So when we can (perform at that level), I guess there’s no excuses left. I think now we have valid reasons for not being able to perform at quite the same level as the top teams.
“But yeah, 24/25 is when I believe we should be able to make those bigger steps and that’s why I signed that contract. So I still have to be a bit more patient.”
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The upcoming might test Norris’ patience to the maximum, especially with new McLaren principal Andrea Stella admitting the papaya team are “not entirely happy” with their MCL60, hinting they could be playing catch-up from Bahrain.
“I don’t see us being able to fight for wins much the season,” Norris admitted. “You never know, there’s always an odd race when you can have that opportunity.
“But this year we just need to give ourselves a solid position to go into next year, hopefully as the leading team of the midfield and the pioneers leading the way to closing that gap to the top three teams. Hopefully that can be done over 2024 and 25.”
For now, McLaren and Alpine are at the head of the midfield but they could soon have company. A tightening-up is expected in the best-of-the-rest fight this year.
Aston Martin are threatening to leap up the grid this season after another off-season of heavy investments, while Alfa Romeo are hoping reliability fixes will see them keep pace with their rivals’ in-season developments.
Norris is the key issue for McLaren. Zak Brown has called the Brit a “franchise driver” at the Woking outfit, hoping to build a future around him. Getting swamped by their midfield rivals might well break their star drivers’ patience, though.
For Brown and Co, sticking the No.4 on race-winning machines represents a race against time.