Lando Norris admits he is expecting pain for a number of races after McLaren’s poor start to the 2022 season in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
McLaren looked quick in the first pre-season test in Barcelona and team sources suggest the data backed up that view, but arriving at the Bahrain test it hit overheating problems and was unable to run consistently. That translated into a poor qualifying showing and even less competitive race pace, with Norris finishing 15th, one position behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
“It’s a brave face,” Norris said. “Of course it was difficult, I’m sure it looked as bad as it felt. This is where we are, quite simply, we just have to get a little bit used to it now.
“Of course over the last few season there’s been a lot of expectation from us within the team but also everyone else watching and we just haven’t got it right at the minute.
“We’re a long long way off, not a little bit, a long way. We’ve got to start fresh, figure things out, find solutions. Solutions don’t mean next week we’re going to be amazing but in months to come we need to understand what’s going on here and how to get better.
“I’m expecting pain, and I think everyone needs to know there’s probably going to be a bit of pain. As McLaren, and myself, we expect a lot more, but it’s not what we have at the minute, we have to get used to it, we’ve been in this position a few years ago but we have to remain optimistic the team and everyone back at MTC can figure things out and we can get back on track.”
Despite the early deficit that saw McLaren’s fastest race lap some 2.6 seconds slower than race-winner Charles Leclerc, Norris believes the team can turn things around across the course of this year and is not resigned to a season of struggle.
“It’s tough, I still believe some tracks will be better for us. I’m hoping this is as bad as it gets – might not be, could be. There’s a lot of time, we still have a whole season of development and figuring things out, but it’s not easy to do so. I think once we figure out what’s going on and what’s wrong then it’s all about implementing it, bringing upgrades and bringing those parts to the car.
“The figuring it out is the hard part, putting things in the wind tunnel, all of that kind of stuff, but it could be done by a third of the way through the season, halfway, three-quarters, I don’t want to believe it’s not going to be at all this season. I have faith in the team, they’ve done it over the last few years, they’ve made big step forwards so we need to step back, look at everything and go again.”
And Norris refuses to lay all the blame on the Mercedes power unit performance, despite all six Mercedes customer cars finishing at the back of the field that completed the race.
“If we complain about that we still have a Merc in third and fourth. I mean it’s definitely not helping, we’re definitely lacking in that end compared to the other guys, but I mean I saw some other problems too.
“Reliability is good, that’s a positive. But simply just our car, we’re a long way down on downforce, the handling is very poor, it’s a tricky car and tricky tires to optimize and when you just don’t have the downforce you can’t get the tires working well and get everything in a good window.
“You’re understeering, oversteering, just more things going on. I think that’s the problem, we need less things going on, we need more rear, more front, just downforce really. Sounds simple but obviously complicated to figure it out.”