RACE DEBRIEF

    Newly re-signed McLaren driver Lando Norris is confident that the team will be in the mix for race victories in 2024, but the Briton feels he may have to wait a little longer for a championship challenge.

    McLaren caught the eye last season by going from struggling to score points to regularly fighting for podiums, with highly effective upgrades being implemented following a technical reshuffle.

    READ MORE: Norris agrees new ‘extended multi-year’ contract with McLaren

    Norris came close to scoring McLaren’s first Grand Prix win since 2021 on several occasions, taking six P2 finishes, while team mate Oscar Piastri managed to triumph in the Qatar Sprint race.

    Following in the footsteps of Piastri’s fresh deal, Norris has now agreed a “multi-year” extension to remain onboard, saying he’s “convinced” that McLaren have “everything we need” to reach the top of the sport again.

    “It’s both the team’s goal and also just a personal goal that I’ve always had,” he said of his and McLaren’s title ambitions. “Am I convinced I’m capable of doing it? Yes. Am I convinced the team is capable of doing it? Yes.

    norris-monza-practice-2023-2.png
    Norris has committed to McLaren for the foreseeable future

    “I don’t think it’s just last year and how we turned things around, I don’t think that’s the only thing I would say that’s convinced me more. It’s just everything that goes on day to day, the people that are here, the work ethic, the mentality, the approach to everything.”

    McLaren last won the constructors’ championship back in 1998, with Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard at the wheel, while Lewis Hamilton is their most recent drivers’ champion via his 2008 crown.

    ANALYSIS: Loyalty, title-winning ambitions and unwavering faith – Norris and McLaren is a partnership that just works

    Pushed on when he feels McLaren could take that next step and challenge for the title, Norris described it as “a difficult question” to answer, but nonetheless hopes the momentum the team has been building means it is not too far away.

    “There were moments we were close to winning races last year, and a few races we were not miles away from a Red Bull,” he continued. “When you think of it, it [the Red Bull] was the most competitive car ever in F1, and a few races we were extremely, extremely close.

    “We’re the closest we’ve ever been [to winning a race] since I’ve been here and for many, many years, but fighting for a championship is a bigger step. If you ask me do I think I can win races this year, I’d be more inclined to say yes, but to go straight into winning races and a championship, I think that’s another level.

    McLaren Origins: The story of the Formula 1 team

    “[It’s a step] both for myself, [as] racing at the very top is not something I’ve necessarily done for a while, but also for the whole team. For everyone here at the factory it’s a different kind of level and excitement, for mechanics a different level of pressure and excitement.”

    He continued: “Do I think we’re ready to challenge them? Yeah, absolutely. In those situations, and there’s opportunities where we’ve been fighting against Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, going against them head-to-head in strategy, pit stops, all of those things, and the majority of times we’ve executed them extremely well.

    READ MORE: Norris says talks with other F1 teams were ‘shut down quickly’ before signing new McLaren deal

    “When it comes to pressure, I think everyone is in a very good position, but as soon as you mention fighting for a championship, everyone’s mentality just changes a little bit. But I feel I’m ready to go against Max [Verstappen] and Lewis and fight against them.

    “So, yeah, [being in the fight for a] championship, I don’t know. As much as I’d love to say over the next two years, ‘26 is an opportunity for everyone on the grid [with the new regulations], so that’s the big, big question mark. We’ll see how we do this year and you can ask me that question again.”

    McLaren will hit the track with their new F1 challenger at Silverstone on February 14, having already presented the livery that will adorn Norris and Piastri’s MCL38s.