McLaren CEO Zak Brown has heaped praise on Lando Norris, believing that his one-lap pace doesn’t get enough credit.
Norris has been a frequent fixture in Q3 battles during his F1 career, which commenced in 2019 with McLaren.
The Briton was notably the better-performing driver across the last two seasons at the team, with multi-time grand prix winner Daniel Ricciardo struggling to extract pace from the car.
Norris appeared in Q3 16 times throughout the 2022 season, with Fernando Alonso being the only other driver outside the top three teams to have more top 10 qualifying positions during the year (18).
As well as his qualifying prowess, Brown says that Norris’ biggest area of growth has been his race craft.
“He’s just getting better and better,” Brown said. “He puts together some amazing qualifying laps, I don’t think he probably gets enough credit how awesome he can be when it’s time to set a lap.
“We’ll be in free practice three and ‘bang’, there it comes in qualifying when he needs to do it in Q3. [We say] ‘wow, where did that come from?’.
“He does that often, he makes very few mistakes, he rarely makes a big mistake. If I look at where he started versus now, he’s got a very high level of confidence, but not arrogance.
“He’s definitely one with the team and the racing car. He puts together unbelievable qualifying laps, and his racecraft, if I look at season one to now, his race craft is exponentially better.”
Brown hails McLaren’s 2023 F1 line-up
For the first time in his F1 career, Norris will be the more experienced driver at the team in 2023, as he will partner rookie Oscar Piastri.
The Australian driver replaces compatriot Ricciardo, with Brown stating that McLaren is content with its mix of experience and youth at the team.
“We think Oscar is going to be a sensational racing driver,” he said. “If you look at his career to date he’s won a lot of championships in his first year, which always tells you a driver is special.
“He’s got a great mental approach to the sport and now that we feel Lando has a lot of experience, we feel like we have a great blend of experience and youth – our experience just also happens to have youth.
“We sit here very excited with the potential of our driver line-up of Lando and Oscar for the foreseeable future.”
McLaren ended the 2022 season fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, missing out on fourth to rivals Alpine.