Lando Norris reckons Aston Martin are best placed to catch Red Bull this season
… and he reckons there’s a split between the top four teams and the rest of the grid
Things didn’t exactly go to plan for Lando Norris or for his newbie McLaren teammate Oscar Piastri in the first race of the 2023 F1 season in Bahrain, with Piastri retiring on lap 15 and Norris crossing the line as last of the finishers in 17th place – two laps down on the leaders. Ouch.
Said leaders were of course Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez who scored a one-two in the mighty-looking Red Bull RB19, leading some (including George Russell) to assume that the drivers’ and constructors’ championships are already sewn up.
But can anyone challenge the reigning champions this year? TG put that question to Lando.
“I think Aston are in the best position at the minute,” said the 23-year-old. “They have a young car in terms of philosophy and development, and they did a very good job in Bahrain. Red Bull do seem like the dominant team at the minute and of course they are clearly ahead of everyone, but I don’t know, for some reason it seems like everyone has made more presumptions for the rest of the year than ever before, just after round one.
“Yes, at the minute Red Bull are in complete control, but Aston look like the potentials and I think Ferrari are the same. Mercedes seem like they’re a little bit on the back foot, but that can all change in such a long season.”
In terms of what McLaren is aiming for, “just points” is the target for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian GP according to Norris.
“I think we had a reasonable chance to score points in Bahrain. We were within the points before we started to have issues, so I think that's a good target for us.
“There are four teams which are a lot quicker, so that's eight positions that are probably a little bit out of reach in terms of pace, which just leaves ninth and 10th place. So, it's not like I can confidently say we can fight for big points, because I don't think that's realistic in any way, but a lot of the midfield teams at the moment – including us – are fighting for ninth and 10th. If we can get on the table and be in that position then we have to be happy with that.
“It's the closest midfield I think we've seen for years. It’s pretty much the top four teams and then everyone else. That means it’s more rewarding when you put things together and more costly when you make mistakes.”
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If that result in Bahrain did get to him though, Lando isn’t showing it. The Brit has dismissed any talks of a crisis at McLaren and said that the mood in the camp was “great”.
“We understand that as a package and as a car it's nowhere near where we want it to be, but what made that even worse in Bahrain was the reliability problems. Of course you always want to start on a good note, but it's round one of 23.
“We have all of our targets set out,” Norris told TG. “It's just about actually completing what we've set out to achieve. So that's what we're trying to do now. We have our first upgrade coming in Baku. The rest is just one step or one race at a time and being the best we can until we have more opportunities to go forwards.”