Revealing his “hurt” over Oscar Piastri being the first of the McLaren team-mates to win a race, Zak Brown has downplayed speculation that the frustration is getting to Lando Norris.
Last time out in Qatar, Norris not only had to watch as his rookie team-mate clinched the Sprint victory, but he also moved up the rankings on one of F1’s most unwanted records – most podiums without a win.
Having secured five top-three results this season alone, including a run of three from Singapore to Qatar, Norris is fourth in the rankings with 11 in total, just two behind Nick Heidfeld’s record.
Is Lando Norris too critical of his performances?
Whether it is a case of brewing frustration as he seeks that first win, Norris’ negative comments have been making headlines of late.
So much so it prompted Nico Rosberg to offer his help the “spiralling” star as the 2016 World Champion says it is important for the McLaren driver to “avoid repeating ‘I’m not good enough and I’m making too many mistakes’ over and over and over for the whole weekend.”
Brown, however, believes the 23-year-old’s frustrations are normal.
Asked if it was the result of still chasing that illusive first Grand Prix win, the McLaren CEO said: “No, because I don’t think we’ve given him a car capable of winning yet. We’re getting closer, definitely getting more competitive.
“I think all racing drivers, if they feel they didn’t maximise a qualifying session or a race, so he was obviously frustrated in Qatar, he made some uncharacteristic track limit mistakes, which he was definitely not alone.
“So, I think he was frustrated there, of course, but I think it’s momentary frustration. I think it’s no different than any driver on the grid, that if they feel they left something on the table, they get a little annoyed with themselves, but then they quickly recover – and he drove a brilliant race.”
This weekend’s United States Grand Prix marks Norris’ 100th race on the Formula 1 grid, all of those spent with McLaren. Joining the team in a race seat in 2019, he has scored 11 podiums, five fastest laps and one pole position along with 564 points.
Brown is impressed with Norris’ growth in his five seasons on the grid.
“I would say, if we look at what he was like as a rookie versus now, he makes very few mistakes – not that he made a lot of mistakes as a rookie, but more,” said his boss. “Rarely misses a sector when he needs to put it together.
“And I would say his race craft is extremely strong. So, his pace has always been there. His pace remains fantastic, and he’s definitely one of the fastest drivers in Formula 1.
“And you just look at how few incidents he’s had in the five years. I’d say his race craft is also as good as anyone’s in Formula 1. So, we’re giving him a car that’s able to get on the podium now on a more regular basis. And we still need to keep developing, because this sport never sits still.”
With Piastri having joined him as his new team-mate, rivals such as Max Verstappen have applauded McLaren’s line-up as one of the strongest on the grid.
Brown agrees, saying: “I think they’re definitely pushing each other hard – but I think that’s good for both of them and I think it’s good for the team.
“You know, a couple of track limits here and there, not very big mistakes, compared to some of the mistakes you see some drivers make, where they end up in the wall – not that they won’t crash again sometime in the future.
“But no, I think they’re pushing each other hard. I think they’re learning from each other. And I do think it’s an awesome driver line-up.”