Former Formula 1 driver Marc Surer has admitted he feels “sorry” for Lando Norris after the Briton inked a multi-year contract extension with McLaren, only to find that they have tumbled down the pecking order in 2022.
Surer also said that he does not understand why drivers are so keen to tie themselves down with long contracts, especially with teams’ relative performance changing from season to season.
Last month, Norris signed a new contract with McLaren that keeps him with the Woking side until at least the end of 2025.
The Briton previously indicated that there are get-out clauses, contradicting what team principal Andreas Seidl had claimed.
“Of course, there’s things here and there like there is in every single person’s contract. But, in terms of my commitment, it is very high. So I’m confident I’ll be here for the next four years,” Norris said after he signed on the dotted line in February.
While he has pledged his future to the team that gave him his F1 start in 2019, the question has to be posed as to whether his faith may begin to waver given McLaren’s substandard start to the 2022 season.
The British squad exited the opening round of the season scoreless for the first time since 2019 as Norris ended the Bahrain Grand Prix 15th, one position adrift of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
All of the bottom six classified runners in Sakhir were Mercedes powered, but on a faster track like the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, which is next up on the calendar, Surer anticipates that McLaren’s lack of downforce will be mitigated.
“McLaren doesn’t have enough downforce and for some reason I remember this was always a little bit the case,” he told Formula1News.co.uk
“The car was always fast last year [and] at Monza, the fastest race [they won], and I think still the potential of McLaren is on a fast track.
“They have to sort out some other things but they were quite good in Barcelona, so now we have softer tyres [for] the next race, softer tyres could help the team which doesn’t have enough downforce and the long straights showed the favourite cars like the McLaren, so I think they look a little bit better.”
As for Norris, Surer sympathises with the fact that the 22-year-old has locked himself in to a team that looks uncompetitive under the new technical regulations.
“I feel sorry for Lando Norris,” he said with a chuckle.
“Because he signed this long-term contract. I don’t know why drivers are doing that by the way, because as a driver you have to be flexible, you have to be in the best car.”
Surer, who started 82 F1 grand prix, believes that drivers need to give themselves more flexibility to jump ship.
“Just think back in the old days when they sometimes even changed the cars in [Juan Manuel] Fangio’s time during the season when the other car was better, and now they want to have a life insurance [in the form of] a long-term contract, which is wrong in Formula 1,” he opined.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner suggested that a disparity existed between themselves and Ferrari in the more downforce-demanding sections of the track in Bahrain, and McLaren will be hoping that the longer flat-out sections in Saudi Arabia will also suit their car as they aim to get up and running this year.
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