Lando Norris admits the McLaren MCL60 is proving more competitive than anticipated at several circuit layouts. In the build-up to the Brazilian GP, the British driver was cautious about his chances at the Interlagos track layout.
Within a few laps, however, it became clear that Team Papaya was again a force to be reckoned with. At this stage of the year, this revelation is hardly a surprise.
Norris has become accustomed to playing down expectations in the second half of 2023. This is a reversal from the early rounds of this season when he often insisted there was more to come from the MCL60.
His belief in the team has been vindicated, with Andrea Stella’s promises of mid-season development paying dividends.
Aside from their pure performance, the consistency at McLaren is another very encouraging sign. Unlike Mercedes, Aston Martin or Ferrari, the Woking-based team is fighting at the front across various circuit layouts.
Considering the sensitivity of modern F1 cars, this dependability is invaluable. This is an asset for next season whilst also showcasing the potential for mid-season development – even in the budget cap era.
Speaking after the Brazilian GP, Lando Norris explained how the team exceeded expectations at Interlagos:
“I don’t think we were expecting to be as competitive here as we have been, so we’re still surprising ourselves…
“It comes and goes, you know. I think everyone expected Mercedes to be extremely strong this weekend, and they were nowhere.
“[Everyone] expected Ferrari to be a bit more competitive and weren’t, so I think no one really knows.
“Everyone just guesses and presumes, but no one knows until we get on track.”
With only two race weekends before all sights are set towards 2024, McLaren is in a solid position. New development facilities, a promising trajectory and a seemingly reliable baseline, are all key advantages.
It should always be remembered that – in the same way teams can progress – it is possible to take steps backwards. Aston Martin is now very familiar with this process.
This isn’t to suggest McLaren will repeat this blunder, but complacency cannot be allowed to creep in. Red Bull have spent most of this year on next year’s car, which will force rivals to make a meaningful step forward over winter.
Moreover, teams cannot continue relying on the Red Bull template to progress. It will be necessary for McLaren to innovate, or else they risk playing catch-up to the Austrian outfit until the regulations change.