McLaren driver Lando Norris has stated his desire to race closely with new Mercedes driver George Russell in 2022.
Formula 1 is undergoing significant changes heading into the new year, with the cars expected to lose some aerodynamic performance and the sport switching to 18-inch tyres.
There will also be an engine freeze next year, meaning that the specification of power units cannot change as the season wears on.
Russell proved his worth at Williams during his first three seasons in the sport, out-qualifying team-mates Nicholas Latifi and Robert Kubica 57 times in 59 races with the British team.
He scored his first Williams points in Budapest last year, before claiming his first podium in Belgium several weeks later, after an exceptional qualifying lap in wet conditions.
He has been signed by Mercedes for 2022 to replace Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, who has headed to Alfa Romeo for the upcoming season.
Much has been made as to whether Russell will be able to challenge Sir Lewis Hamilton at the Constructors’ Champions in 2022.
What is known is that when he filled in for his compatriot at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020 when Hamilton had COVID-19, he competed exceptionally well and might have won the race had it not been for a botched pit stop and a slow late puncture.
Norris, who scored four podiums in 2021, is hoping that his McLaren team will be in a position to battle with Mercedes and Russell next season.
“First of all, I hope we get to go wheel-to-wheel,” Norris said.
“If we go wheel-to-wheel then I think we’ve had a good start to 2022. Or he’s had a bad one!” he added.
McLaren lost out on third in the Constructors’ Championship to Ferrari last year, but the 22-year-old is positive about the team’s chances of challenging for more frequent podiums and race wins in 2022.
“I think, of course, we will be optimistic and hope we can start the season well, and [hope] we can be closer to Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, I guess especially those final two.
“Time will tell. I don’t think anyone really knows where anyone will be at the beginning of the season,” he explained.
However, he maintains that there is much work for his team to do over the winter before the season begins.
“But we’ve definitely got some ground to make up and it won’t be easy – although it’s new rules and everything – to make up all of it this year.”
The Briton added that he believes that their proximity to Russell and Mercedes will be a good metric for McLaren’s progress.
“If I’m racing George then we are racing Mercedes, and if we are racing Mercedes then I think we’ve had a good off-season.”
Norris finished sixth in the Drivers’ Championship in 2021, missing out on fifth to former team-mate Carlos Sainz in what was an extremely impressive performance in the Spaniard’s first year with Ferrari.