Lando Norris has hit out at reports that the MCL36 “doesn’t suit” outgoing McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo due to the car being developed around the Brit, something he says couldn’t be “more untrue”.
The 22-year-old has had a fantastic season, despite the team having arguably taken a step backwards compared to the last couple of seasons.
In the last couple of years, McLaren have been capable of battling the frontrunners at times; however, there has been nothing of the sort this year, with the exception of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Norris currently sits seventh in the Drivers’ Championship, meaning he leads the ‘best of the rest’ standings.
The Quadrant founder is a staggering 69 points ahead of his Australian team-mate, who will be replaced next season by exciting 21-year-old Oscar Piastri.
The MCL36 has clearly been a challenging car to get on top of, with the team having had a mixed bag of results this season.
The British driver’s considerably better results compared to his team-mate has led to a number of reports that the team based the car around Norris’ driving style, hence why he signed a lucrative long-term deal at the start of 2022.
Norris has denied that the team built and developed the car around him, with the Brit admitting that he actually doesn’t like this year’s car.
“There have been things said that [Daniel] doesn’t suit the car and stuff, and everyone thinks that I do suit the car and the car is made around me, but it couldn’t be more untrue,” Norris said on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast.
“Not that I hate driving the car I am driving now, but it is very unsuited to my driving style.
“I would say at the beginning of the year, it suited Daniel a lot more than it suited me, in terms of how you had to drive it.
“And that is something I really struggled with at the beginning of the season. I am coping with, or adapted to it a lot more now – I would say more well suited to it.
“But it is far from a car that I would want in an ideal world and, say, if I wanted to go and do the best lap possible and give me that car to go and do so, it is definitely not the car that I have now.”
The six-time podium finisher thinks his current car is “pretty similar” to the Woking-based team’s 2019 model, which Norris drove in his rookie season alongside Carlos Sainz.
“I feel like I am driving a pretty similar car in terms of characteristics as the car I drove in my first year in Formula 1 [in 2019],” added Norris.
“It’s changed in little ways but nothing I would say now is more adapted to me than in my first year of racing.”
With McLaren currently fifth in the standings, some have questioned whether Norris will see out his long-term contract unless things improve.
The 22-year-old is by far one of the strongest drivers on the current grid and given his age it’s safe to assume that he’ll remain as one of the best for many years to come.
With that in mind, it would be idiotic to rule out interest from Mercedes or Red Bull, when the likes of Sir Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Pérez retire from the sport.
Norris knows that he “wasn’t going to win” immediately, with the Brit confident that the team will rise to the top in the long-term, hence his agreement to sign an extensive deal.
“The fact that I would sign a contract like that, the fact that I know in the short term I wasn’t going to win races – I knew that last year I wasn’t going to win, this year I am not going to win, next year there is a reasonable chance that we won’t win, and I signed up knowing of all that,” he said.
“So, it’s not like I signed up for any other reason bar knowing that long term, I have the faith that we can achieve things together and I think that will make things sweeter than just joining a team which has a chance of winning races.
“I have a lot of faith in the team… and we have a strong team at the minute, in terms of culture, in terms of atmosphere within, I think we are definitely in the best place we’ve ever been,” the 22-year-old concluded.