Lando Norris: Upcoming Baku-spec MCL60 is what we should have started F1 2023 with

Jamie Woodhouse
Lando Norris, McLaren, at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sakhir, March 2023.

McLaren's Lando Norris at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sakhir, March 2023.

McLaren plan to roll out the MCL60 upgrades for Round 4 in Baku, which Lando Norris says will give them the car which they needed to start F1 2023 with if they want to be a frontrunner again.

The Woking squad were downbeat about their chances ahead of the new campaign, and in Bahrain even though Norris was able to qualify P11, it was clear that the team have work to do to make progress on last year where they finished P5 in the Constructors’.

Even that was a decline on 2021 though, as McLaren went from a race win, a pole position and five podiums in total, to just the one podium appearance.

And in the first race of 2023 in Bahrain, Norris had been battling outside the points before engine issues ultimately forced him into six pit stops, the last being to retire.

There is light long before the end of the tunnel for McLaren though, potentially, with their first major upgrade package for the MCL60 due to arrive at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Round 4 of 23.

But, with McLaren wanting to be a frontrunner again by 2024/25, Norris says this Baku-spec MCL60 will be the level of challenger that McLaren now really need to be starting a season with.

Asked if Baku will mark the real start of McLaren’s season, Norris told media including PlanetF1.com: “I’d hope so, I think I never want to say too many things until those times arrive, but at the same time, the season will start now, it’s as simple as that, as much as we want to believe it’s maybe starting later, it’s starting now.

“We’re behind where we should be and where we want to be. Like what we want to be having in Baku should be what we started the season with. If we want to be a top team, this is where we should have started the season with those kind of parts which are coming.

“But until then, we just do the best we can to make the most of what we have now. We remain optimistic that we can make progress later on in the season.”

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Norris also felt it was important to stress that McLaren did not start F1 2023 in a truly terrible state, it is just that they came out of the blocks slower than most, themselves included, had expected.

“I don’t think we’re in a bad position, which is I guess the main thing, I just think we’re not in as good of a position as everyone would be expecting and we’re probably expecting from ourselves,” he said.

“We’re expecting to have taken a bit of a step from where we were last year, and that’s just something that we’ve not necessarily done compared to some of the other teams around us. So therefore, we’re not in a position we want to be.

“It’s not that we made a worse car or anything than [where] we were last year, it’s just not taken us a big step forward. I don’t want to be way down, we’re just not as far up as we want to be, is the main point I’m talking.”