RACE DEBRIEF

    It was expected that the switch to Mercedes power units would be a step forward for McLaren, but Lando Norris says we’ve overlooked how McLaren can improve Mercedes.

    After three years with Renault, McLaren have now returned to Mercedes for the first time since 2014. Widely regarded as the strongest power unit on the grid, the change makes McLaren a customer team alongside Aston Martin and Williams, but those two have both been partners throughout the hybrid era so far, while Norris’ team have also had experience of Honda in that time.

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    “I think altogether it’s been a smooth operation with Mercedes power so far,” Norris said. “I think we’re happy with how things have gone. The bit for me is understand all the new switches and ways of working that they have – that’s one of the biggest things to get used to – and on the whole it’s that little step forward in a lot of areas.

    “But there are some areas that still need some work, and we’ve been working very closely with them over the last three days because the other teams which are Mercedes-powered have been with Mercedes for a while. There’s just that constant everyone kind of gets used to things, and we’ve come in from Renault with fresh eyes, different perspective, different feelings, and I think we’ve really been able to add and improve in some areas.

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    “So very productive between us and the Merc guys – HPP [High Performance Powertrains] – and I think we can be happy with the improvements we’ve made over the last three days. There’s still things to work on, again not just with the car but with the PU and so on, but it is at the moment looking good and we’re happy with how things have gone. So we have to wait until qualifying to really unlock the potential and see what the baby’s got.”

    McLaren were a team that caught they eye during testing with a strong performance and Norris admits the three days in Bahrain went as well as he could have hoped, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas he wants to the team to make improvements in.

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    “I think it’s a very good car to start off with. From the first lap that we managed to do we felt very confident in it and we can push on it a lot. I think trying to unlock that final extra bit that you really need come qualifying come Q1 and come Q3, we’ve really got to sit down and go through everything from the last few days.

    “Obviously no one – well we haven’t gone low fuel and full beans and you don’t show everything. We have a lot of sensors on the car and things like that so no-one shows everything and you don’t get to know exactly what the car’s going to do until you get there, but in terms of going out and feeling like you can push the car to a good limit and within a reasonable pace I’m very happy.

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    McLaren have opted for class-leading Mercedes engines for 2021, having previously used Renault and Honda in the hybrid era

    “I think one of the good things is that we’ve come out and from day one we’ve managed to do that, and for us as a team we haven’t had any big problems, touch wood.

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    “But then on the other side I think we have to understand the car a little bit more, how to set it up perfectly and put it in the right aero characteristic with these changes – the new floor and so on. We have to sit down and really get our heads together to understand how to extract those last two or three tenths that we’re going to need in a couple of weeks time.

    “So it’s a bit of both, I think we’ve still got a bit of work to do to be able to unlock that final part and nail how to put it all together, but for a car that you can just put down on the ground and drive out of the garage, it’s pretty good. So I think we’re in a good place, but we definitely have work to do.”