McLaren defend Lando Norris’ ‘overdriving’ claim after early season struggles

Thomas Maher
Lando Norris puts in the laps in the McLaren MCL60. Saudi Arabia March 2023

British driver Lando Norris puts in the laps in the McLaren MCL60. Saudi Arabia March 2023

McLaren’s Andrea Stella has said he has no concerns that Lando Norris is ‘overdriving’ after the British driver suggested he was doing so.

While McLaren enjoyed a decent haul of points at the Australian Grand Prix following a chaotic end to the race, the first three races have largely been events to forget for the Woking-based squad.

Heading into the season admitting the MCL60 is struggling for pace and performance, both cars encountered technical issues in Bahrain, before a rare mistake from Norris eliminated him early in qualifying in Saudi Arabia – the 23-year-old striking the inside wall at the final corner as he sealed a Q1 exit.

Worse followed on Sunday, with Norris picking up damage on the first lap after hitting debris from his team-mate’s car.

And in Australia, prior to Norris’ run to sixth on race day, the British driver was eliminated in Q2 and admitted he was not driving at his best: “I’m not quite driving the way I want and to the level I want so I struggled to put everything together.”

Lando Norris: I’m not driving at the level I hold myself to

Norris elaborated on that feeling following the session as he spoke to media, including PlanetF1.com, about how he is feeling behind the wheel of the recalcitrant McLaren.

“The combination is tough,” he said. “Especially when you’re kind of close-ish.

“I don’t want to just settle for a P13, or P12, you know? So it’s just a little bit of overdriving potentially, I would say, I’m not quite finding the rhythm that I want and the knowledge of every corner where the limit exactly is.

“So I wouldn’t say I’m probably driving at the level I feel like I should or hold myself to. Put that in the mixture of just also it being a tricky car to drive, one that it’s easy to go over the limit on anyway. When you combine those two – tricky car with trying to over-push and overdrive a little bit too much, then I make mistakes like I did [in Australia].”

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Andrea Stella defends Lando Norris: It’s the team’s responsibility

While Norris reckons he is playing a part in not getting the best out of the McLaren, team boss Andrea Stella leapt to his driver’s defence by saying the responsibility to build a more compliant car rests with the team.

“I don’t think Lando is overdriving the car,” he refuted.

“I feel the car is tricky to drive, especially in braking – we’re seeing so much on the limit of front locking or a bit of rear locking.

“This is also related to the fact that the car needs to be pushed in braking to work somehow. In cold conditions, with the wind, it means that the margin to make a mistake is very, very small.”

Stella explained that, due to an inherent lack of performance, both Norris and Oscar Piastri are pushing harder to compensate – leading to more likely mistakes.

“The drivers – they need to attack because the underlying performance is not enough to go through sessions if they don’t take this kind of risk,” he said.

“So I don’t think I would call it like drivers are overdriving – the drivers are trying to extract as much performance as possible.

“But the car is difficult to drive and doesn’t have enough underlying performance. This is a responsibility that is entirely on the team’s side. We appreciate Lando and Oscar not only trying to do their best while on track, but also having this self-reflective, self-critical attitude. But we know that it’s the team that needs to do a better job.”