Lando Norris says he doesn’t have sympathy for Daniel Ricciardo’s struggles at McLaren this year because he feels he has faced the same challenges and dealt with them better.
Ricciardo will leave McLaren at the end of this season — one year earlier than planned — after the team terminated his contract off the back of just four point-scoring finishes in the first 13 races. Norris admits he has found the team’s cars unpredictable and difficult to drive, but believes he has to focus on making sure his own performances live up to expectations.
“I would hate to say it, but I would say no,” Norris said when asked if he had any sympathy for Ricciardo’s situation. “People will probably hate me for saying it but it’s difficult because I never know if I might encounter that in the future with this car or with a different team or whatever; so I never want to contradict myself going into the future, but I’ve just got to focus on my driving.
“It’s not my job to focus on someone else, and I’m not a driver coach — I’m not here to help and do those kind of things. I’m here to perform at my absolute best and that’s about it. So it’s difficult when people start to have an expectation that it’s my job to also do these other things — helping and describing this and doing that — when that’s not really the case.
“It’s also the case that if I don’t perform well for a few years then it can also be the end of my career, the end of me driving in Formula 1, so I’ve got to focus on myself for the majority of it. Every driver has to adapt to the scenarios that they’re in and that’s what I feel like I’ve had to do.
“It’s not a car that I’ve just been able to jump in and feel like I can just flow with and perform exactly like I want. At the beginning of the year Daniel was performing better than I was — in the pre-season tests and stuff — and it looked like he could just go out naturally and drive the car how he wanted to. I had to learn a new way of driving compared to how I’d been used to driving the car for the last few years.
“So I feel like I’ve had to do a job of adapting and so has he, but I don’t feel like for any driver you would have to have sympathy for them because they have not been able to do as good of a job.”
However, Norris does acknowledge how perplexing the McLaren can be to drive in terms of how the car reacts to inputs, needing what he believes to be a unique approach to understand.
“As a driver, you expect when you turn the wheel or do certain things, you feel like you should know exactly what’s going to happen, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes you’d brake less and the car rotates more or grips more, and other times you brake more and that also does it — it’s very confusing at times.
“At a particular corner you do it one way, at the next corner you have to drive it in a different way — it’s not like every corner ‘This is exactly how you have to drive,’ which I think is what makes it so difficult. You have to find the limit on every corner; you have to change your driving style for every corner, anyway.
“It’s probably easier for Daniel to say because he came from Renault and Red Bull, but as a driver you always have certain expectations for when you steer this amount the car turns this amount, and when you throttle it does this or whatever. But at times it feels a little bit disconnected, like you expect it to do one thing and it doesn’t quite do it, so you go on throttle or the brake and something doesn’t feel connected, let’s say.
“So I guess you have to adapt to that and make the most of it and make the most of it, and figure out how to drive the car best way like that.”