‘He’s strong’: Norris dismisses Russell’s comments about McLaren

Ferrari and McLaren both impressed during the first three days of testing in Barcelona, but Red Bull and Mercedes asserted dominance on day three.

Lando Norris disagrees with Mercedes driver George Russell’s suggestion that the Silver Arrows are behind McLaren and Ferrari following the first pre-season test in Barcelona.

Norris topped day one having put 103 laps on the board, before Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc went quickest on day two and completed 78 laps.

Mercedes suffered a troublesome second day, as Sir Lewis Hamilton’s running was cut short by a sensor issue before Russell enjoyed better fortunes, touring the Circuit de Catalunya 66 times and ending the day fourth, behind McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, as well as Leclerc.

This led the 24-year-old to insinuate that the Woking and Maranello squads have their noses in front as we edge closer to the new season.

“Some teams, a red team and an orange team in particular, look very, very competitive,” he told Sky F1.

“[Mercedes are] certainly not ahead, [I’m] pretty sure of that.”

However, Mercedes and Red Bull would display a purer indication of their speed as they locked out the top four positions on the final day, with Hamilton leading Russell for a Mercedes 1-2 on Friday.

As a result, Norris believes Mercedes are stronger than his compatriot would have us believe, and reckons that Mercedes and Red Bull – who were incontestably the two quickest teams last year – are still the top dogs.

“George obviously topped the timesheets [on Friday morning] so if he thinks we’re strong, we’re going to think he’s strong,” he told reporters.

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“I think if there’s any team on the grid right now that you expect to be at the front when it matters it’s going to be Mercedes and probably Red Bull.

“I don’t think we’re in an amazing place. I think we’re in a good place. We had a car which as soon as we put it on the track worked well.”

As a legacy of the new technical regulations in the sport, the Briton confirms that there have been a couple of teething issues, but is overall pleased with the progress his team made in Spain.

“Of course, there’s always some new things and some unexpected issues here and there but it’s been a good start,” he added.

Many within the paddock have tipped Ferrari, who have gone for a bold engine and chassis concept this year, to be the quickest, and this was reinforced by their impressive performance over the three days in Barcelona, but Carlos Sainz insists that there is no reference for the teams to go on, so he does not know where they are regarding relative performance.

“This is very early days and I can imagine why you guys were starting to take conclusions and maybe try to put up a bit of a pecking order,” he stated.

“But for us, really, we have no clue. I think no one has a clue what fuel loads, which elements are everyone running.

“So we cannot confirm or deny that we are happy or sad because we really don’t know where we are at all.”

The Spaniard reckons we will get a clearer idea of the pecking order during the second test at the Sakhir International Circuit in March.

“I think Bahrain, maybe it will start to get a bit easier to start to guess where everyone is,” he stated.

The teams will run for three more days in Bahrain between 10-12 March, before the new campaign commences on 20 March at the same venue.