Lando Norris defended McLaren ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, insisting the team is not as bad as many have been led to believe ahead of the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season.
McLaren will struggle at the start of the new season after a disappointing pre-season test in which the MCL60 lacked pace, proved difficult to handle and suffered from recurring wheel eyebrow issues.
The poor result came as the team admitted they were behind schedule for 2023 and failed to meet targets with the new car, having fallen to fifth in the Constructors’ Championship in 2022.
Norris is about to embark on his fifth campaign with the team and while he has admitted frustration with the team’s poor preparation for the new season, he is confident in the team’s recovery and claims the issues from McLaren are exaggerated in some circles.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 on Thursday in Bahrain, he said: “Once you find something, you go that way and so on and we just found something, or maybe we haven’t explored as many trails as we should have. … and once we got on the right track, it was just a little too late Simple as that.
“So I think we are in a race against other teams and we are optimistic and we want to fight back to be a top team. It’s just frustrating that we found it just a little too late, but that’s all.
“It happens, every team does it sometimes, but it is something to look forward to in the future.
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“I don’t think we’re in a terrible place like it is. We may not be as strong as we want to be, but we’re not as bad as some people might think.”
With a gap of almost a month between the Australian and Azerbaijan Grand Prix in April, Norris is hopeful that McLaren will go relatively unpunished at the start of the season before any upgrades are fitted to the MCL60.
“I don’t want to speak too soon, because at the same time, we’re just waiting to see how we’re going to do, but we’ve got some good things in the pipeline, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said. added.
‘It’s a plan. We also need to run them and make sure they work well and so on, but it’s a long season so I’m looking forward to the last part at the same time.
Despite their current limitations, Norris is adamant that a top-10 finish must remain the goal for McLaren in Bahrain.
“I have no idea how we’re going to do it,” he said. “I think we are not among the top teams [but] hopefully we’ll fight for some points there, so that’s our target for this weekend.
“Excited to get back to racing, I think that’s the most important thing. Always good to get back in the car for testing, but the fun comes this weekend when it’s qualifying and racing.”