RACE DEBRIEF

    Lando Norris may only be heading into his third season of Formula 1 – but the 21-year-old is preparing himself to take on more “leadership” responsibilities at McLaren in 2021, as the team welcome new boy Daniel Ricciardo into the fold.

    McLaren were the first team to unveil their 2021 car, the Mercedes-engined MCL35M, this winter, with Norris and Ricciardo appearing together at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking in the UK to help with the online launch.

    And asked at the event how differently he would be approaching both his third season as a Formula 1 driver and his third season with McLaren, Norris replied: “I think there's a little bit more of a leadership role that I almost have to take.

    READ MORE: McLaren unveil Mercedes-engined MCL35M to be piloted by Ricciardo and Norris in 2021

    “I'm not leading the whole team, but there's more things I need to lead on myself, take on a bit more responsibility within the team, and that just comes with the experience. It wasn't something that I could just do last year, it's something that comes with experience, and getting to know the team, getting to know the car and also having Daniel in the team, a guy with less experience of working with McLaren and the people within it – that's where I need to step it up a bit.”

    Ricciardo made the decision to switch from Renault to McLaren in May of last year, to replace the Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz. And according to Norris, the McLaren team Ricciardo is joining in 2021 is very different to the one Norris encountered when he became a McLaren Young Driver back in 2017 – at a time when the team, according to Norris, “lacked that enthusiasm… to want to go out there and win again”.

    “It's incredible, it really is incredible,” said Norris of the change at McLaren in recent seasons. “I’ve been almost five years now with McLaren, which seems like a long time but it doesn't feel that long. The atmosphere within the team, the mentality, was... not dead, but it was lacking a little bit, and it lacked that enthusiasm and that final push and drive from the drivers and just that mentality to want to go out there and win again.

    READ MORE: Competition with Norris will be ‘fierce’ and drive McLaren forward, says new recruit Ricciardo

    “It was a fresh start obviously with Carlos and myself a couple of years ago, and it's another one today, and this season, for us to liven things up. It's improved so much over the past few seasons, and it's so good to see.

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    Norris says the spirit in McLaren has improved dramatically since he first joined

    “Every time I come in, everyone's a bit more smiley and happy, and everyone's very excited and motivated to take that next step and work that little bit harder and try and perfect everything,” added Norris, “to make the car that little bit quicker every time they can to bring the fight to the front and try and get us back to winning races and on podiums.”

    AS IT HAPPENED: Watch as McLaren reveal their 2021 challenger, the MCL35M

    Having launched the MCL35M, meanwhile, Norris’ next task will be to shake it down, along with Ricciardo, at Silverstone on February 16 as part of a filming day for McLaren – with the pair due on track at Bahrain for pre-season testing on March 12-14, ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix at the same track on March 28.