Meeting with the media ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Lando Norris denied that McLaren was in “crisis” mode. McLaren struggled during pre-season testing at Bahrain, and then in the opening race of the season teammate Oscar Piastri was forced to retire, while Norris could only finish. the race after making multiple pit stops to deal with a pressure leak. Norris joked after the race that the Grand Prix was “good pit stop practice for the mechanics.”
Thursday in Jeddah ahead of Friday’s practice sessions, Norris addressed the idea that it was panic time at McLaren, as well as some rumblings about his future with the team.
“Everyone makes it sound a lot worse than it is. Calling it a crisis? It’s far from that at all, and it’s nothing close to it,” Norris told the assembled media. “We’re confident we can get some good points, I would say, this weekend. I think it’s a close fight with Alfa [Romeo], and a lot of those teams… towards the top four teams it’s a very big jump. But I’m confident we can be in that fight; I don’t think we’re that far away.”
The driver also brushed aside questions regarding his future with McLaren. He is under contract with the team through the 2025 season, but McLaren’s slow start — combined with the ever-present shadow of silly season — has led to rumors that he could seek greener pastures if McLaren cannot turn things around.
However, Norris flatly denied those rumors.
“I guess I’m at a point where [the rumors regarding his future] affect me in any way. I’m, I guess, fine with it to an extent, apart from when it’s just complete BS that people try and come up with, and completely fake stories that people make up,” he told the assembled media on Thursday. “I think we do a good job within the team, within McLaren, explaining things to people, telling them what’s going on, explaining my side of the story, things that are going on with me, things that are going on within the team.”
Norris ultimately conceded that rumors around the paddock are part of life in F1.
“It’s tough, it’s the world we live in, it’s just media. It’s just what you’ve got to deal with sometimes. I’m fine with it, the team are fine with it.”
McLaren enters the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as one of just three teams — along with Haas and AlphaTauri — who failed to claim a point in the Constructors’ Championship in the first race of the season. Following the Bahrain Grand Prix, Team Principal Andrea Stella assured fans that developments to the MCL60 were in the works.
The main limitation that we have at the moment is aerodynamic downforce. Obviously we can improve the rate of development in the car by having better infrastructure, by having more workforce and this is why we are having the investments that are ongoing now at McLaren,” said Stella after the Bahrain Grand Prix. “However, I think that for the level of talent and availability we have at McLaren already, we can recover and we can out-develop other teams because what we see in development right now is a very alive car in terms of development.”
However, those much-needed reinforcements are not arriving overnight.
“There are some areas of the car that seem to be able to generate good downforce, like I’ve said already, they were not ready in time to be part of the launch spec,” added Stella. “But this car will evolve pretty much race-by-race, with some major upgrades that will come, the first one around race four.”
Until then, Norris and the rest of the team are going to keep fighting, and the driver remains confident. “We’re confident we can get some good points, I would say, this weekend,” said Norris on Thursday. “I think it’s a close fight with Alfa [Romeo], and a lot of those teams… towards the top four teams it’s a very big jump. But I’m confident we can be in that fight; I don’t think we’re that far away.”