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Norris: We’re going to struggle a bit in Bahrain

Norris: We’re going to struggle a bit in Bahrain

Norris: We’re going to struggle a bit in Bahrain

Lando Norris played down McLaren’s chances at the 2024 Formula 1 season opener in Bahrain, claiming the Sakhir Circuit hasn’t suited their cars historically.

McLaren finished the 2023 F1 season with the second best car behind Red Bull, the team managing monumental progress after a mid season upgrade, and one would expect them to pick up from where they left come 2024.

And while McLaren had a decent pre-season test compared to their horrible one in 2023, there seemed to be a question mark regarding their position in the pecking order, with questions regarding their pace and whether they haven’t improved as much as the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes, or whether they were sandbagging.

However, speaking to the media in Bahrain on Wednesday, Norris did not exude confidence in his and his team’s chances this weekend, insisting it is complicated to really place McLaren within the pecking order.

Asked where McLaren stand ahead of the race in Bahrain, the Briton said: “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.

“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,” he maintained.

Quizzed to explain the situation further, Norris tried to beat around the bush instead of giving a straight answer, he said: “It’s just an honest answer of I think where we stand. 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,” he admitted.

“[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.

“Bahrain has never been a good circuit for us,” Norris pointed out. “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’.”

Not much of an improvement for the Woking squad?

mclaren mcl38

But Norris gave a hint that McLaren may not have improved as much as they would’ve wanted over the winter.

He went on: “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.

“[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,” he explained.

The 24-year-old remains optimistic that McLaren – as the season progresses – will only get better, he said: “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.

“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,” Norris concluded.

Norris managed seven podiums in 2023 after McLaren improved the car, he scored 205 points finishing sixth in the Drivers’ Championship.