Why Lando Norris is not ‘at all’ liking his upgraded McLaren MCL60

Jamie Woodhouse
McLaren's Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

McLaren's Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

While the upgraded MCL60 may have surged McLaren up the Formula 1 pecking order, it is still a challenger which Lando Norris says does not play to his strengths in the slightest.

First it was Aston Martin, and then McLaren proved once more that a huge chunk of performance can be found with the right developments in F1 2023.

McLaren began their game-changing upgrade programme for the MCL60 in Austria, with their work resulting in the team going from fighting to make the points, to competing with Mercedes, Aston Martin and Ferrari to be recognised as the second-fastest outfit.

Lando Norris does not feel suited to MCL60

McLaren machinery has in recent seasons been known as not the easiest to drive, both Norris and former team-mate Daniel Ricciardo claiming the previous two challengers had not been a good fit for their driving style, Norris obviously coping better with that than Ricciardo did.

And despite the team having taken a huge step towards their goal of returning to fight for wins and titles in Formula 1, Norris still says the MCL60 counters how he wants to drive a racing car in many ways, the same still true for his team-mate, which is now impressive Australian rookie Oscar Piastri.

“It’s not just my liking, it’s also Oscar’s because we have pretty similar comments,” Norris is quoted by Motorsport.com. “Same as last year, even when Daniel was driving, we had a lot of similar comments, every day, every weekend.

“It’s difficult to describe. You have to drive it quite one way. But it’s also a way that I don’t want to drive, or like to drive.

“I don’t like to drive the car the way that I have to drive it now. I feel like it isn’t to my strengths at all.

“I want to be able to carry minimum speed and to ‘U’ a corner. And the last thing I can do in the world now is ‘U’ a corner. I have to ‘V’ the corner more than ever, and I’ve never been the biggest fan of doing that. And I don’t like it that much.

“Basically, the car only likes to go in a straight line. I mean, it doesn’t even go very quick in a straight line either!”

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There of course must be serious strengths for the MCL60 though, and indeed, Norris says the challenger is “very good in straight-line braking”, a particular advantage in certain wet-weather scenarios, with Piastri having nailed those conditions at Spa to almost claim sprint pole, before scoring a P2 finish in the event.

But, Norris goes back to the disadvantage of being stuck having to drive the car only one way, and that way being one he does not like.

“We’re very good under braking, in straight-line braking, which is why we were so quick in the wet at times,” Norris continued.

“I wouldn’t say we’re quick in the wet as a general note, we’re 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, but we’re not actually quick in the corners when it’s wet. So there’s certain things which allow us to be competitive.

“But 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.

“And it’s not a way that I currently like, it’s one that I’ve had to adapt to. I still have to adapt a lot as a driver, and it’s far away from the car that I want to be able to drive.”

The entire chasing pack has plenty of work ahead if they are to reel in the dominant Red Bull team which has claimed all 12 grand prix wins so far in F1 2023.

Max Verstappen sits atop the Drivers’ Championship with a 125-point lead over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, while Red Bull are 256 points clear of nearest rival Mercedes in the Constructors’ standings.

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