McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl believes Lando Norris can put pressure on Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez in the drivers’ championship this season, if he keeps up his current level of consistency.
Norris has finished strongly in the opening three races of the season, picking up a fourth place in Bahrain and a third in Imola before finishing fifth last time out in Portimao. Even though that last race was the first time he hadn’t beaten either Bottas or Perez, Norris is currently third in the drivers’ championship and Seidl (pictured middle, above, with Norris [left] and teammate Daniel Riciardo after the Imola result) believes the performances the 21-year-old is delivering give him a real opportunity to stay there.
“There’s always a chance, but again it’s simply important that we, together with Lando, keep delivering weekend by weekend,” Seidl said. “Consistency is key — together with performance, obviously — in order to outscore cars that are definitely quicker than us.
“But if we keep delivering upgrades to the car, if Lando keeps doing what he did so far these first three races, it will keep the pressure up on these guys ahead of us. There will be opportunities to finish races in front of them this year and then there’s always a chance.
“But at the same time you need to be realistic — if these guys get their act together each weekend, then we simply have to accept we are not there yet in terms of performance.”
Although McLaren is still adrift of the top two teams, Norris finished 51 seconds adrift of Lewis Hamilton after a flat-out race from the front three, with the McLarens having been lapped in the same race last season.
“Overall, I think what is still very encouraging to see is that on Saturday and on Sunday, we again made a good step forward closer to the Red Bulls and the Mercedes cars. We shouldn’t forget that, in a race like this (Portugal) last year, where Lewis and Max went flat out until the last lap, they would have lapped us.
“So, we managed to make a good jump forward in terms of the lap time deficit. We know we still need to make big steps in order to get back to fighting these guys on track. That’s not something which happens overnight but the important thing is that we make these continuous steps — I’m very happy with what I’m seeing.”
While the three races support the impression McLaren has the third-fastest car in the field, Seidl feels this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix ought to give an especially relevant demonstration of form.
“Barcelona is always a very important track each year, because that is a good reference always in terms of knowing where you are in terms of pecking order. I’m sure everyone will bring upgrades and then I think we will have a good picture where we actually all are.”