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Lando Norris: “Believe McLaren can win races this year”

There’s still a long way to go, but: Lando Norris shares team principal Andrea Stella’s optimism that he might be able to win a Grand Prix in 2024

McLaren was recently considered the secret favorite for a podium in Suzuka, but Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri ultimately had to settle for 5th and 8th place. So far, Norris’ podium in Melbourne and two further fourth places have been added to the team’s tally, putting them third in the Constructors’ Championship, 51 points behind Ferrari but 35 ahead of Mercedes

Formula 1 returns to Shanghai next weekend for the first time since 2019, when Piastri was still driving Formula Renault and Norris was a rookie in the premier class. “I don’t have the best memories of it,” says the 24-year-old. Although he finished 18th, he did not see the chequered flag – a late consequence of a collision with Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kwjat.

His own expectations are “not as high as in Suzuka”, says Norris ahead of the fifth Grand Prix in 2024, but: “We should be in a good position. We can be satisfied with how the season has started. In qualifying, we put up a good fight with Aston and Mercedes. In Suzuka, we were even ahead of Ferrari.”

“We also did a good job in the races. Not as good as Red Bull and Ferrari, but we are ahead of Aston and Mercedes. That’s a good starting position,” he says. Although Shanghai was “not a good track” for McLaren in 2019, “a lot has changed since then. I am optimistic that we can have a good weekend.”

Piastri is more skeptical. He says: “This will be one of the more difficult tracks for us. Bahrain also had a lot of slow corners and we weren’t as competitive there as we have been recently. I think it will be a tricky weekend.” Although we can hope that the sprint will cause the others to slip up, “If we were to draw a track especially for us, it wouldn’t be Shanghai, that’s for sure. “

What is still lacking at McLaren

Because there’s a really fast section at the Chinese Grand Prix with the banked turn, but it’s easily full. For everyone. And the majority of the other corners are slower. That’s no easy task for the McLaren. It plays to its strengths in fast corners and agile changes of direction.

What Norris fears is the “snail curve” after the start and finish, which begins with a relatively wide radius and then gets tighter and tighter: “This type of curve is not good for us,” he explains. “Just like Zandvoort, it’s the same there. That’s one of our biggest weaknesses. We might be able to get around it in qualifying, but it’s likely to be a bigger problem in the race.”

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella recently stated that he did not think it was impossible to win a race in 2024. A prediction that Norris is now putting the brakes on: he fears it won’t happen “any time soon” – but: “If we are in the right place at the right time and improve the car, then it might be possible. “

Norris currently sees McLaren in 3rd place

Suzuka, where two Red Bulls and two Ferraris were ultimately no match, went okay. The podium was out of reach, but fourth place might have been possible instead of fifth, says Norris. And: “We weren’t that far away. But that’s exactly where we’ve been all season.”

“We’re behind Red Bull, behind Ferrari, but a bit ahead of the other two teams when it comes to the race. And it was the same last time. I don’t think you can say Suzuka was frustrating for us. We know what we need to improve and if we can do that, then I think Andrea could be right with his prediction. “

“I also believe we can win races this year. If we can compete with the two teams in front of us. But that’s a big if. We have to work hard on our weak points, and that has been a challenge for us for years. But if we succeed, then I’m confident we’ll have some good races.”

Maybe not yet in Shanghai next weekend. But at least things should go better than they did five years ago: “I can’t say I’ve gained an incredible amount of experience from 2019. Things have changed since then. And I’m a completely different driver today than I was back then,” says Norris

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