Norris unsure how he and McLaren will react in a championship fight

Lando Norris admits he and his McLaren team haven’t fought for a championship in so long that he’s unsure how both would react if an upcoming car is capable of mounting a challenge.

McLaren showed a clear step forward during the 2023 season, turning around a poor start to end the year in fourth in the constructors’ championship and enjoy a number of races as Red Bull’s closest challenger. Norris says that shows he’s with a team that has the potential to take the fight to Red Bull and Max Verstappen, but having not been in such a position since joining Formula 1 he admits both he and the team will need to learn how to handle that situation.

“It’s such a difficult question [if McLaren can win a title before 2026],” Norris said. “But with how we improved last year with the trajectory, with the knowledge of what we can further improve on with our learnings from last year… There was moments we were close to winning races last year, main races, and a few races we were not miles away from a Red Bull.


“And last year, when you think of it it was the most competitive cars ever in Formula 1, and a few races we were extremely, extremely close. So with the knowledge of if you want to win one race, we’re the closest we’ve ever been since I’ve been here at McLaren and for many, many years. But fighting for a championship is a bigger step.

“If you ask me do I think I can win races this year, I’d be more inclined to say yes, but to go straight into winning races and a championship, I think that’s another level. Both for myself — racing at the very top is not something I’ve necessarily done for a while — but also for the whole team, for everyone here at the factory, it’s a different kind of level and excitement; for mechanics, a different level of pressure and excitement.”

Despite his reservations about what it would be like to fight for the title, Norris says he feels he has the skills to compete with the best and that McLaren has shown it is putting all the pieces in place to do the same.

“I think it’s just something you have to ask yourself every now and then, but do I think we’re ready to challenge them? Yeah absolutely. In those situations — and there’s opportunities where we’ve been fighting against Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, and going against them head to head in strategy, pit stops, all of those things — the majority of times we’ve executed them extremely well.

“So when it comes to pressure, I think everyone is in a very good position but as soon as you do mention fighting for a championship, everyone’s mentality just changes a little bit. I feel I’m ready to go against Max and Lewis [Hamilton] and fight against them, but it also just comes down to consistency and small decisions along the way, which are hard to predict when you’re going against these guys as you never know what their next move is and same thing they never know what your next move is.

“So, yeah, a championship? I dunno. As much as I’d love to say over the next two years, ’26 is an opportunity for everyone on the grid, so that’s the big big question mark, we see how we do this year and you can ask me that question again.”

Story originally appeared on Racer