Lando Norris knew McLaren’s season start would be tough ‘three months ago’

Sam Cooper
Lando Norris on the grid before the race. Bahrain March 2023.

McLaren driver Lando Norris speaks to his engineer before the race. Bahrain March 2023.

Lando Norris has given a pessimistic outlook on McLaren’s 2023 season, stating he thought they would be in for a tough start “three months ago.”

McLaren were one of the biggest disappointments from the opening race of the campaign with both drivers experiencing problems that either required them to retire or to pit six times.

It was not just reliability where McLaren struggled though as the MCL60 lacked speed throughout with Oscar Piastri going out of qualifying in Q1 while Norris failed to reach Q3.

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

The performance in Bahrain followed on from many pessimistic comments following the car’s first on-track test, new team principal Andrea Stella stating that the car was currently unable to challenge their targeted P4 spot.

There are still 22 races to go, giving McLaren plenty of time to turn things around, but with a number of issues on the car, it seems unlikely there is going to be a quick fix.

“I think it’s a mixture of two things,” Norris told media including PlanetF1.com before the race weekend of the MCL60’s problems. “One is the general balance and two is overall downforce.

“Overall downforce kind of fixes, let’s say 90% of the problems. But to take that final step, there are other things on top of it.

“I don’t know the specifics of numbers and so on and where we are going to be. I think that’s the point. But we have similar limitations to what we had last year.”

As to when Norris was first aware that the start of the season would be a struggle, he responded: “three months ago.”

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“I think we knew then exactly the car we’re going to have, how much downforce we were finding and so on,” the 23-year-old said. “So you always have a reasonable understanding on where your own cars going to be, you just don’t know what everyone else is going to do.

“I guess we’re the fifth best team, sixth best team, seventh best team, whatever. We want to be taking steps forward.”

McLaren finished 14 points off P4 and, despite their performance in the opening race, Norris stated the fourth spot was their goal.

“We want to end as a top four team,” Norris said. “I think that will give us a big boost of confidence going into ’24 when we will have part of the car set up in the new wind tunnel.”

McLaren currently reside bottom of the standings following the opening race in Bahrain.