Lando Norris was more likely to be lapping a Haas car than racing it last year – but thinks it could be the opposite scenario this season.
McLaren were racing at the front for some of the 2021 campaign, most notably when Norris was a contender for victory at Monza – finished second to his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo – and Sochi, where he may have hung on to win but for being caught out by a late rain shower.
In contrast, Haas were trailing around at the back and found themselves lapped in the vast majority of races, usually needing a Safety Car in the closing stages to end up on the same lap as the podium dwellers.
But with the much-changed regulations for 2022, a fleet of entirely new cars has been produced in the sport’s attempts to try and tighten up the field – and that has given Haas a chance to make significant gains into the midfield.
Pre-season testing suggested they may have done just that, whereas McLaren did not have the three days in Bahrain they were hoping for because they encountered brake problems with the MCL36.
The midfield is expected to be particularly tight this term and Norris would not be surprised to find himself going wheel-to-wheel with Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher.
“The three teams there – Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes – are looking the fastest at the minute and I would say everyone else is looking pretty close, from us down to Haas,” Norris told reporters.
“Even Haas looked very quick, [which is] surprising considering how far off they were last year, and [I’m] impressed to see the progress they look like they have made so far.
“I think even we need to be prepared to be racing against them and qualifying against them, so we’ll see this week.”
Norris was undoubtedly the busiest driver during official testing in the sense that he was on duty for all three days with his team-mate Ricciardo isolating due to contracting COVID-19 – although his total of 199 laps was just two more than Mercedes’ George Russell, who had only half the time in the car.
“It was so-so, could have been a lot better – definitely wasn’t our smoothest of tests. The problems made our life difficult to do the laps we wanted to do,” said Norris.
“We could do one or two-lap runs, so we understand the tyres when they are new and fresh. But when they are older on high fuel, we don’t understand as much because we didn’t have the chance to test it.
“[It was] good, but many areas we are behind on compared to other teams that we will have to focus on this week.”
Planet F1 Verdict
Norris thinks McLaren could be racing Haas
Lando Norris thinks McLaren could be battling with Haas this season.