Norris believes McLaren now ‘comfortably third’ fastest team

Sam Cooper
Lando Norris during a press conference. Imola, April 2022.

Lando Norris says he believes McLaren are now the “comfortably third” fastest team having recovered from a difficult start to the season.

After the opening two races, even the most die-hard McLaren fan would have struggled to picture such a dramatic turnaround but work behind-the-scenes has transformed them from backmarker to podium placers.

Granted, Norris’ third-place finish featured a large slice of luck in the form of Charles Leclerc spinning off the track but the McLaren driver had been in a comfortable fourth up until that point.

While Red Bull and Ferrari look set to disappear over the horizon in terms of the World Championship, there is a real scrap for the ‘best of the rest’ crown with McLaren, Mercedes and Alpine among those jostling for that third-place spot.

In terms of the Constructors’ Championship, it is Mercedes who, for now, hold third place but judging by their performance at Imola, they do not have the third fastest car on the grid. That title, Norris believes, belongs to McLaren.

 

Where are McLaren in F1’s current pecking order?

McLaren have turned things around in the last two races this year compared to the first two, so where do they find themselves now against the others on the grid?

Reflecting on the opening race in Bahrain which saw him finish 15th and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo 14th, Norris said that race could be classed as “an outlier.”

“It was still a reality at the time,” he said. “A lot of what we saw is still on the car, but we’ve just kind of understood it a bit more.

“We’ve worked on the weaknesses and we’ve made some improvements. There are a lot of positives from it but I think we are comfortably third, I would say.”

 

Having spent the majority of the race in a comfortable fourth, Norris admitted he found difficulty in deciding what pace to drive at given the disadvantage compared to himself and the Red Bulls and Ferraris.

“It was just because of the guys I was next to at the start,” he explained. “It’s hard to judge your own pace compared to guys who are one and a half seconds quicker a lap.

“Especially knowing where Carlos [Sainz] was, and then Sergio [Perez], I just tried to make the gap as big as possible but no matter what I did they still would have passed me.”