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Norris concedes McLaren ‘haven’t progressed as much as we would have liked’ as he sets out Bahrain predictions

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 28: Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren attends the Drivers Press

Lando Norris feels that McLaren have not made as much progress ahead of the 2024 season as he and the team would have liked, with the Briton admitting that the squad could potentially face some struggles at this weekend’s opening race in Bahrain.

Looking back at 2023, the Woking-based outfit endured a difficult start to the year, having hit the track in Bahrain with a pre-upgrade car that finished towards the back of the field in the first few races. However, when the updates started to arrive from Austria onwards, McLaren made incredible progress and at times proved to be the closest competitors to Red Bull at certain Grands Prix in the latter half of the season.

READ MORE: McLaren drivers expect to be ‘a chunk behind’ two teams as they share pecking order predictions after testing

In terms of how things look this time around, Norris acknowledged that 2024 pre-season testing was more successful for the squad but feels that their exact place in the pecking order is unclear as of yet.

When asked where the team are at ahead of the Bahran Grand Prix, Norris responded: “Good question! It’s a question I think everyone’s asking. I think we kind of have a rough idea of where we’re at, but we don’t actually really know where we stand comparing to a few other teams.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 22: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38

Norris says that Bahrain has "never been a good circuit" for McLaren

“I think it’s clear [who] the top two [are], then there’s a bit of a bunch behind, which is Mercedes, Aston [Martin] and us. But in terms of how the pre-season test went, it was a lot better than last year and we’re in a much better position than last year, so that’s the most important thing.”

However, quizzed further on why he appeared to have a slight sense of pessimism ahead of the season getting underway, Norris admitted that McLaren’s progress over the winter had not been as strong as they would have liked.

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“It’s just an honest answer of I think where we stand,” the 24-year-old said ahead of his sixth season in F1. “I think until we get to Friday, [when] we get to qualifying, it’s tricky to know where we’re going to stand against some other teams. I think it’s pretty close with several.

“I think there’s a lot of expectation for us as a team, just because of how well we progressed last year. [At] certain races we were the closest to Red Bull and definitely not far away, [at] certain other races we were still a long way off, easily behind Mercedes, easily behind Ferrari, easily behind Red Bull, and at times fighting with the teams behind that, so we were still just very inconsistent.

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Norris: We're definitely 'quite a chunk behind Ferrari'

“Bahrain has never been a good circuit for us. We’ve never had one of our strongest races ever in Bahrain, so I think it’s way too quick to judge and just say, ‘Okay, we’re not going to be great here in Bahrain, that’s the end of the season for us’.

"I think for everyone, because everyone’s so up and down, you have to give us two, three, four [or] fives races to get the first honest review of where everyone stands against one another, and not just judge it off of the performance that we’re going to see here in Bahrain.

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“[So it’s down to] a combination of things, stuff that we still need to tackle if we want to make sure we’ve taken a step forward, which I think we have. We’ve made the car quicker and that’s very clear from all the data we’ve got, but certain things haven’t allowed us to progress as much as what I would have liked, and I think we all would have liked as a team. Also, some of those issues I just highlighted [could affect us] a lot here in Bahrain, just because of the nature of the circuit.”

Despite this, Norris feels positive about the team’s prospects at other upcoming venues on the 2024 calendar.

“I’m still confident when we go to certain circuits where we were fast at last year, like going back to Suzuka and things like that, I’m confident we can still be one of the best cars,” he added. “But Bahrain has just not suited our car ever necessarily, and exactly for that reason I think that’s why we’re going to struggle a bit more here, but I’m confident we can turn it around later down the line.”

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