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Norris hails ‘exciting times ahead’ for McLaren after team clinch P4 in constructors’ in Abu Dhabi

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4)

Lando Norris has praised his McLaren team for their “very important” achievement of securing P4 in the constructors’ championship, though admitted that the squad lacked pace in the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Norris made a good start from fifth on the grid at the Yas Marina Circuit, bouncing back from an error in qualifying to overtake team mate Oscar Piastri and Mercedes’ George Russell in the opening laps.

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However, he was unable to maintain that position – having suffered a slow pit stop during the race, as well as making contact with Sergio Perez during a battle in the latter stages of the event which resulted in the Mexican receiving a five-second time penalty – and ultimately ended the day in P5.

With his early pace looking strong before his switch to the harder tyres later on, Norris was asked if this was how it had felt to him, to which he said with a smile: “Pretty much! Just the pace all through today was not quite where we were hoping to be. Not a lot, it’s just a tiny bit – a tenth a lap or something is all we were probably missing today to be in a fight with the Mercedes and the Ferrari.

“But I did what I could. We did our best, honestly. We lost a little bit in the pit stop to George, we lost a position to George. Maybe [it] could have been a little bit different, but it happens. The guys have done a very good job this year with pit stops, so one bad one is always bound to happen at some point.

Norris predicts ‘exciting times ahead’ for McLaren after their 2023 turnaround

“Otherwise just missing a little bit and then because of that I’m trying to over-push, and then the degradation is a bit too weak. Not the race we wanted to end the season on, but otherwise we had the pace today. We’ve had the pace for the last six, seven, eight races, so this weekend I think doesn’t take anything away from that.”

Norris’ result, along with Piastri’s P6, was enough to seal fourth place in the constructors’ championship for McLaren, with the squad beating nearest rivals Aston Martin by 22 points. With the latter having had a much stronger start to the year, Norris has hailed his team for how they have turned things around.

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“That’s very important for the whole team,” he said of the Woking-based outfit taking P4. “For the morale, for the motivation, just to know we beat a team we were a long way behind in the beginning of the year, so [it] shows the hard work paid off. It’s a good bonus for everyone that’s part of the team, so very happy for them.

“Happy to be a part of it and to help that progression that we needed this year. We took one of the biggest steps we’ve ever done, but we know we want a lot more. Everyone knows that in the team, everyone’s working extremely hard and trying to progress as much as possible. Exciting times ahead, and just a few more bits of the jigsaw to put together and we’ll have it all.”

‘There’s been a lot of highlights’ – Piastri picks out the moments he’s most proud of from his rookie year

On the other side of the McLaren garage, Piastri acknowledged that he had been surprised by the lack of pace in his car after slipping from third to sixth. However, the Australian was taking the positives from having an incident-free weekend.

“[The pace was] just not quite as strong as I hoped we would be,” he explained. "Struggled a little bit in the first two stints, but the last stint seemed much stronger. Plenty to work on.

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“I think it was nice to just have a clean weekend in the end, a good qualifying, a race without any contact or things happening. It was nice to just finish the year on a strong note and have a good, clean race.”

When asked for his feelings on how his rookie season in the sport had gone, Piastri concluded: “Happy overall. I think definitely some things to work on, but there’s been a lot of highlights, a lot of moments I’ve been proud of. I have two podiums, a Sprint win in my first season – they’re proud moments, definitely.

“I think with how competitive the sport is at the moment, you really can’t take those things for granted, so to have those in my first season is an honour and hopefully we can try and make it a more regular occurrence next year.”

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