Mika Hakkinen believes Lando Norris has a “very high level” of talent in Formula 1, ranking him alongside Max Verstappen and both Ferrari drivers in terms of speed.
McLaren driver Norris has seen his stock rise significantly in recent seasons after largely dominating the in-team battle over eight-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo in the past two years, to an extent which has seen the Australian depart the team a year before the planned end of his contract.
Norris has been given a four-year contract extension with McLaren in the meantime and racked up six podium finishes of his own in his career so far, also being the only non-Red Bull, Ferrari or Mercedes driver to finish in the top three last season.
Given the consistent level of performances he has shown in McLarens which have largely been capable of only competing in the upper midfield in his career to date, double World Champion Hakkinen puts Norris’ ability right up there with the current title holder.
“A very quick driver, he’s achieved a lot, or rather he’s shown convincing results consistently,” Hakkinen said of Norris to Unibet International.
“He’s super-talented, no question about it. He’s on the same level as Leclerc, Verstappen and Sainz. He’s on a very high level speed-wise.”
As for Hakkinen’s former team, McLaren suffered a difficult start to the season in Bahrain as Norris was forced to pit six times through a pneumatic pressure leak on his MCL60, while rookie team-mate Oscar Piastri retired early in the race.
It compounded a tough weekend in which the team did not appear up to the same pace as most of the midfield, with Norris qualifying 11th and Piastri unable to get out of Q1 on his debut race weekend.
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There are significant changes coming to the team’s infrastructure back at their Woking base, including a new wind tunnel, so Hakkinen believes his old colleagues may have to wait a little while longer for the success they have been craving.
“I don’t think McLaren has very high expectations this year,” the two-time World Champion said.
“They know their development department, and their sponsors and partners are world-class technology giants.
“McLaren has their support, but the team knows they aren’t quite there yet. The result needs a couple more years.
“They are in it for the long run and have good partners. Like I said, there might be some results this year, but I think the true performance will be seen in a couple of years.”