Retired 2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg thinks McLaren’s new 2023 partnership will “be close”, with the German believing that Lando Norris is driving like a “world champion”.
Norris will be joined by rookie Oscar Piastri next season, with the 21-year-old replacing the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo, who has massively underperformed since joining the Woking-based team in 2021.
Piastri is without a doubt the toughest team-mate Norris will have come up against, having destroyed Ricciardo and performed on an equal level to now Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz.
The current Alpine reserve driver is one of the highest rated drivers in the world currently, with the Aussie being part of a very exclusive club of having won Formula 3 and Formula 2 in consecutive seasons.
Piastri claimed F3 glory in 2020, before winning the F2 Drivers’ Championship in 2021.
Rosberg, who now works as a pundit for Sky Sports F1, is expecting Piastri to find it a “big, big challenge” alongside Norris, who has always been able to maximise his car’s potential.
“It is going to be tough for Oscar to do well there,” said Rosberg.
“Lando is world-class, he’s world championship material there so it’s not going to be easy to go there and do better than Daniel.
“Ricciardo is a multiple race winner, one of the best drivers in the world, and has found it unbelievably tough against Lando. Oscar is brand new to this sport!
“All the indications are that Oscar really is one of those future superstars. But I can’t really believe that suddenly Ricciardo has unlearned to drive super fast.
“Therefore, I think it’s Lando who’s just performing like a world champion at the moment, he’s just driving so incredibly well.
“So I really think it will be a big, big challenge for Oscar next year to be close to Lando.”
Norris has been on a different level to Ricciardo this season; the British driver is currently 69 points ahead of the 33-year-old, in what has been a disappointing season for McLaren.
After a couple of seasons fighting occasionally amongst the frontrunners, the papaya side have taken a step backwards following the new aerodynamic regulations.
Despite this, Norris has performed incredibly in what is clearly a weaker car this season, highlighting just how good the 22-year-old is.
Rosberg truly believes it’s a very “brave move” by Piastri, with the former Mercedes driver admitting that the Aussie will have to “go for it” in order to beat Norris.
“It’s a brave move by Oscar, it really is,” added Rosberg.
“It is either he beats Lando or he’s out basically of the sport, so it’s really, really tough, but he believes in himself. And if you think you’re that good, you’ve got to go for it.
“For Oscar, if you’re a young driver and you have the opportunity to race for McLaren, and you’re free to do so, you have to take it. Opportunities like that don’t come around all the time, so he’s done everything right.”