Briton Lando Norris believes that his McLaren team is on the rise to become the main challenger of the Formula 1 champion Red Bull 2023. Having achieved a double podium at the Japanese Grand Prix, he is confident that the team is making real progress towards the leader and has one of the best driver pairs on the grid next to teammate Oscar Piastri.
Norris said after he and Piastri finished second and third at Suzuka that the team could catch up with Aston Martin to win fourth place in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship despite a dismal start to the season.
The team is experiencing a big resurgence and its recent form suggests that it could now be the second fastest team in the peloton behind the dominant Red Bull. It was a remarkable transformation for McLaren, who had started the season far late and admitted that they had not achieved the aerodynamic goals they had hoped for with their car.
After difficulties in the first half of the season, including the failure in the first two races, the first major team improvements in Austria and the subsequent developments in the last lap in Singapore turned out to be extremely successful.
The 23-year-old Norris secured four second places from Austria, while rookie teammate Piastri took his first F1 podium at Suzuka. It is the team’s first double podium since Monza in 2021, when Daniel Ricciardo won second with Norris, but it was a competition where they were helped in their task after Max Verstappen met Lewis Hamilton and finished both races.
McLaren’s goal in Japan-when it was 19 seconds behind Verstappen, who won the constructors’ championship for Red Bull and thus secured it – was absolutely deserved, as his car showed a real pace.
With six meetings remaining, they are 49 points ahead of Aston Martin, which has started the season very well. Aston’s head was considered unassailable, but with the recent results, Norris now feels that they are within reach.
When asked if he thought they could overcome them, he was unequivocal. “That’s 49 points, I really think,” he said. “There aren’t many races anymore. I’m sure there will be a couple where Aston will be a little stronger. But I think our advantage per minute over almost every team, with the exception of a few, is that we have two drivers fighting for these positions and fighting for points, and not every team has that per minute.”
McLaren certainly has a great driver duo, where at Aston the points were mostly scored by two-time world champion Fernando Alonso. Teammate Lance Stroll could not keep up with the Spaniard all season. Where Alonso returned seven podiums, Stroll, the son of team owner Lawrence Stroll, scored a best fourth result and either finished outside the points or retired seven times.
Norris and Piastri, on the other hand, repeatedly return solid surfaces. “It helps us,” Norris said. “We can help each other, we can use each other, and I think this is a good advantage that we have over many other teams at the moment. So we are in an uptrend.