Lando Norris exposes huge McLaren weakness with extreme set-up chosen

Henry Valantine
Lando Norris drives in the wet. Spa July 2023.

McLaren driver Lando Norris rounds the Fagnes Chicane in wet conditions. Belgium July 2023.

Lando Norris believes his high-downforce rear wing is costing him as much as eight tenths of a second per lap on straights alone at Spa this weekend.

Norris and team-mate Oscar Piastri have gone different ways in terms of their car setup, with the young Aussie opting for a more traditional low-downforce rear wing around the Belgian circuit while Norris opted to have more rear downforce.

But while he will have better performance through the corners, Norris feels this cost to his top speed could hurt him significantly in the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

Lando Norris ‘paying the price’ for high-downforce wing

Norris was beaten by Piastri in qualifying on Friday and was bettered by his rookie team-mate in Saturday’s Sprint at Spa, Piastri taking a fine second-place finish behind Max Verstappen after only narrowly missing out on pole for the shortened race.

But given the cars went into parc fermé conditions for qualifying on Friday, meaning no major setup changes are allowed without taking a substantial grid penalty or a pit lane start on Sunday, Norris admitted he is going to have to make the best of what he has – even though that involves being significantly down on top speed compared to his rivals.

“I would say so,” Norris told media including PlanetF1.com when asked if another encouraging showing at Spa is a sign of McLaren’s continued improvement.

“I think obviously, I’ll say the result has been good for Oscar. Overall, we’ve probably struggled a little bit more with pace compared to the leaders comparing to where we were.

“But I think we’re just not in the optimal range of downforce. I think we went for a bit too high and that’s costing us probably close to six, seven, eight tenths just on the straights alone.

“And then you add in clipping and the battery harvest, it can easily be up to almost a second [per lap] in the straights during a race.

“Obviously, we’re getting a decent amount back in the corners, so there’s always this little to and fro, but maybe just not enough to [get to an] optimal place, which is I guess the penalty of just having FP1 and qualifying on Friday. We just wanted to set the car in the right window.”

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When asked if he feels he will be vulnerable in a straight line in the race, Norris responded: “It depends. I mean, we are like 15, 16 kph down, no DRS.

“So when you add [others] to have DRS and us no DRS, it’s like 25 [kph], so it’s going to be a struggle at points.

“We know it, we just have to deal with it and do the best we can with what we’ve got.

“We’re very good in medium and high speed, no matter what downforce we’re on. We’re just losing more than what we’re gaining in the end of the day, and we’re paying the price for it.”

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