Norris: McLaren progressing but rivals remain ‘a long way’ ahead

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Lando Norris painted a picture of cautious optimism after three days of testing in Bahrain, the Briton acknowledging McLaren’s progress while also admitting to the team’s significant gap to its rivals.

Norris clocked in P14 at the end of the final day of testing at Sakhir, but with only 20 laps on the board due to a clutch issue.

However, the Briton was satisfied with the consistency of McLaren’s MCL38 overall.

He also recognized that team papaya’s approach of refining its car concept for 2024 has yielded positive results.

"We had a decent car at the end of last season, and I think we've definitely taken some steps in the right direction," Norris told the media.

"But I think we're still quite a long way behind Red Bull and a long way behind for Ferrari.”

Norris noted the stark contrast between this year’s preparations and last year’s depressing pre-season test in Bahrain.

“Definitely coming into this season, this test, and this year, [we're] on the right foot for once," he said. "I don't think we've done that at all in the last three, four years.

"We've come in attacking a bit more with various things, rather than not being sure if this (the car) is going to be ready, or we don't think we've maximised this area and that area.

“I think we've come in with much more knowledge and expertise and just a much better car to start the season off with.

"I'm excited and have been since the very beginning, properly starting the year in a good position and then seeing how we can transform things because I think we obviously did a very good job with that last year."

While Norris expressed a degree of concern about McLaren’s level of performance relative to Red Bull and Ferrari, McLaren Racing boss Zak Brown offered a more optimistic view of his team’s strength.

“[It was] certainly a lot better than last year's test,” Brown said. “We learned a lot about the car. We had a few issues here and there, but I suspect everyone in the pit lane did.

“That's what testing is for, to understand where you might have some weak points.


“It looks like we've got good one-lap pace, we've got good race pace. I'm never quite sure what everyone else was up to.

“It's a general sense that we’re pretty competitive and it feels like we're there or thereabouts to where we finished last year, which is what we wanted coming into this year.

“Hopefully, the developments we have will continue to work, which I'm sure they will.”

McLaren's 2023 campaign was a story of remarkable progression, thanks in large part to the success of its development programme.

Brown believes the team's development trajectory will continue, propelling them to the next level: challenging for race victories.

“Everything we're seeing in the development right now continues to look good,” the American added.

“I think hopefully we can stay on the development pace that we're on and if a team or two blinks, then maybe we can turn one of those six second [place results] we had last year, nine podiums, into one of those top steps which is certainly the ambition that we have.

“We'll be bringing stuff every race but we'll have our fair share of significant upgrades over the year - your wings, your floors, your bodywork - as we did last year.

“I don't see any reason why the development curve can't continue as it is. It was a good test and we're looking forward to the race next weekend.”

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