Norris says he escaped the 'shadow' of Sainz in 2021

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari with pole sitter Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren in qualifying parc ferme. 25.09.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Russian Grand Prix, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi
ยฉ XPB 

At the time it looked like an unusually close and warm working partnership between Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz during their two seasons together at McLaren.

However Norris admits that the Spaniard's departure from Woking has been a bit of a relief for him - and an opportunity to finally get to shine in his own right.

Sainz was the undoubted senior partner when he arrived from Renault at the start of 2019 as part of an all-new driver line-up, with Norris very much the young and inexperienced rookie.

Even so, Norris succeeded in staying in touch with Sainz throughout their time together, and suspects the Spaniard's ability cast a shade over what he himself was achieving during his first outings.

โ€œI think Carlos is one of the best Formula 1 drivers," Norris is quoted as saying by Motorsport-total.com. โ€œI think I was a bit in his shadow, because he did a great job.

"It made me not look so good because heโ€™s an extremely good driver. He did a very good job."

Norris says that Sainz himself was underrated at the time, and it's only since he left McLaren and joined Ferrari that both drivers have begin to be properly appreciated.

Despite being new to the team and suffering from initial transition issues as he got used to a brand new car and way of working at Maranello, Sainz finished ahead of both Norris and his new Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc in the final standings.

โ€œMore and more people are now realising what heโ€™s capable of,โ€ said Norris, although he felt that he would still have been able to match or be "even a little bit better than him" if Sainz had stayed at McLaren for another year.

Daniel Ricciardo took over from Sainz at McLaren in 2021 and many expected the experienced Aussie to be too much for Norris to handle. It did turn out to be a rather one-sided battle - but in Norris' favour.

Norris said that his first two seasons alongside Sainz had helped him not feel overwhelmed by his new team mate's reputation.

โ€œI didnโ€™t feel nervous when he came," Norris stated. โ€œA lot of people thought maybe he was [much better than Sainz or me] because he has won several races.

โ€œEveryone knows what Daniel is capable of because he has been in a car that has won races.โ€

Despite struggling in early qualifying sessions, Ricciardo did pull off an unexpected victory in the Italian Grand Prix, his first win since 2018 with Red Bull at Monaco.

Norris finished just behind him in second place and could have pressed for the win if not told by the team pit wall to maintain position to guarantee the team 1-2 result

It was Norris' best result in 60 Grand Prix starts to date. He has been on the podium five times in total, with third place finishes in Austria (in 2020 and 2021), Emilia Romagna and Monaco.

Norris spent much of 2021 in third place in the drivers championship but was pushed down to sixth in the final standings by a late surge from Sainz and the Ferrari squad, which also saw the scuderia pip McLaren to third place in the constructors standings.

Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter