Lando Norris may be driving a better-performing McLaren, but the British driver still hates the way the MCL60 handles…
McLaren surged up close to the front of the F1 field last time out at Silverstone, with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri securing second and third place grid slots for the British Grand Prix, before racing to second and fourth places on the Sunday.
But, despite their swift rise from midfield mediocrity to frontrunning contention, the MCL60 is still not a car that Norris enjoys driving as it refuses to react the way he’d like.
Lando Norris: I have to drive the McLaren in a way I don’t want
Norris hasn’t hidden the fact he’s not a big fan of the way his McLaren handles, and went into more detail when he spoke to the media on Thursday at the Hungaroring.
“I mean, it’s not just my liking, it’s also Oscar’s because we have pretty similar comments,” he replied, when asked about what changes he’d like to feel to bring it in line with what he’d prefer.
“It’s the same as last year, even when Daniel [Ricciardo] was driving, we had a lot of similar comments every day, every weekend.
“It’s just difficult to describe, I feel like I’m having a debrief now! But it’s just… you have to drive one way. But it’s also a way that I don’t want to drive, or would like to drive.
“I know it wasn’t a thing that, say, Daniel liked to drive the car that way.
“But, yeah, I don’t like to drive the car the way that I have to drive it. I feel like it isn’t to my strengths at all. I want to be able to carry minimum speed and ‘U’ a corner. The last thing I can do in the world now is ‘U’ a corner. I have to ‘V’ the corner more than ever. I have never been the biggest fan of doing that, and I don’t like it that much.
“So, basically, the car only really likes to go in a straight line! I mean, it doesn’t even go very quick in a straight line either!”
What allows the McLaren to be so competitive?
Given that the ill-handling McLaren was one of the stars of the field at Silverstone, as well as proving occasionally quick in tricky conditions, Norris said there are certain characteristics that allow the car to show good speed.
“We’re very good at braking, in straight-line braking, which is why we were so quick in the wet, at times,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say we’re quick in the wet as a general note, but quick in the wet when braking is a big key – like in Monaco. It builds tyre temperature, builds confidence. That’s when we’re quick – we’re not quick in the corners when it’s wet.
“So there are certain things which allow us to be competitive. It’s just to be able to have scope to do different lines and drive in different ways. If the wind changes, if conditions change, different fuel loads, tyre degradation, we still always have to drive in one specific way. It’s not a way that I currently like, it’s one I’ve had to adapt to. Even last year, it still changes every year, I still have to adapt a lot as a driver, and far away from the car that I want to be able to drive.
“We’re one of the slowest cars in the slow-speed corners. It’s just an area that’s been bad for us over the last five years that we’ve not really tackled that well. At no point have we gone ‘Wow, the slow-speed is strong now, let’s work on the high-speed’.
“It’s always been good at high-speed, poor at low-speed. But that’s like a general point with these tyres and just how you have to drive them. It’s very difficult to combine, they only like to go in a straight line at any point, they don’t like to corner. So you have to make the car a little bit around this. But the better you make the car, the less stress you can put on the tyres and things like that.”
Has the McLaren upgrade helped with driveability?
The recent sweeping changes made to the MCL60 have resulted in a big step forward in terms of performance for the Woking-based squad, but Norris says the improvement doesn’t extend to how the car handles.
“At the minute, even with this upgrade we’ve had, the performance of driving the car, the handling has not get any better,” he explained.
“It still is just as difficult to drive, as difficult to execute qualifying laps with.
“In essence, it is slightly easier because, for a given mistake, we’re actually higher up there, especially in the last few weekends.
“In the high-speed corners, it’s harder to make a mistake because the cars performing better. For me and where we’ve been over the last five years, we’ve made the car quicker – obviously, I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, it’s only two weekends where we’ve been quick.
“But we have yet, over the last five years, [not] made that steady improvement in slow-speed handling and drivability. A bigger step would be improving how we drive the car, how easy it is to drive the car, rather than just adding 10 more points of [aerodynamic] load in slow speed, so to speak, because that’s only going to get us so far up the order. Red Bull have both.”