Norris: McLaren Bahrain pace ‘a good sign’, room for improvement


Lando Norris believes McLaren displayed a promising potential in Bahrain despite the Sakhir venue exposing the lingering low-speed weakness of its car.

Norris and McLaren teammate Oscar Piastri qualified seventh and eighth for Saturday’s opening round of racing but withing half a second of the pole lap set by Red Bull pacesetter Max Verstappen.

Race day delivered a similar result, with Norris clocking in sixth - two positions ahead of his teammate - and finishing hot on the heels of the Mercedes of George Russell and just ahead of the sister silver arrow of Lewis Hamilton.

Norris highlighted McLaren’s encouraging performance relative to Mercedes but noted that it still hadn’t managed to iron out the low-speed weakness embedded in its design, a trait particularly prominent in Bahrain due to the circuit’s layout.

But the Briton’s assessment was positive overall.

"It's no different to last year," Norris said. "Those things we've not been able to tackle, other things which make us so up and down every weekend.

"It's something I think that made us struggle so much today and the wind changed. Some corners just felt shockingly bad compared to yesterday.

"I think it's clear there are still a lot of areas we need to focus on if we want to be more consistent and challenge.

"But considering it's a track we struggle with still, the fact we're so close to Mercedes is still a good sign for us that at some tracks we'll be able to be ahead. I'm confident, the team is doing a good job and it's a good starting position."

Norris admitted that gaining an upper hand over Russell was a tall order, even despite the Mercedes driver’s engine issues that weighed on his performance.

“We were close to Mercedes, I don't think we had any advantage over them," he added. "The pace was so similar that, as soon as I got into the dirty air, I didn't have enough of an advantage to have a chance to overtake or even get within DRS.

"Maybe I could have been ahead of George, but that's about it. I think we're where we expect it to be and that's just a good start to the season, so I'm happy with that."

Queried on McLaren’s prospects next weekend in Jeddah’s high-speed environment, Norris believes the Saudi track should better suit the team’s MCL38.

"But it's also a track where you want to have a good front at apex and this is something we don't have at all, so there are still going to be things we're going to struggle with a lot.

"On average, the track speed is higher, which maybe should suit us a bit more, so I'm excited for it."

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