McLaren‘s original performance projections for the winter season missed the mark, prompting the company to lower its expectations before the season started. The team only managed to score points in three of the first eight rounds.
However, a shift in intentions occurred following modifications made to the aerodynamics in Azerbaijan. Team leader Andrea Stella announced an ambitious three-stage plan to effectively transform the aerodynamic aspects of the MCL60, beginning at the Austrian Grand Prix.
This aerodynamic upgrade strategy led to four second-place finishes for Norris and a podium finish for rookie Oscar Piastri in Japan. Although this significant change has positioned the team to surpass Aston Martin and claim the fourth spot in the constructors’ standings, Norris warns that the hardest part is yet to come.
Since joining the F1 team in 2018, Norris has struggled with driving his natural style, mainly due to the car’s handling. He has urged McLaren to focus on improving this aspect, rather than just chasing faster lap times.
When asked about the team’s future, Norris noted, “A lot of it is small details which make this big difference. Smaller details in terms of making the driver a bit happier rather than just making the car quick.” Explaining the challenges, he added, “But this one of making the car a bit more drivable, a bit more rounded, is almost the hardest task to achieve because it’s so difficult to do this without compromise.”
Highlighting the balancing act required, Norris elaborated, “It’s such a difficult thing to have the front end good here, but then it not be too strong on the exit because then the rear needs to be better. It’s more like a juggling act rather than just adding things everywhere. The juggling act is one that’s very difficult to achieve.”
Despite challenges, Norris is optimistic about McLaren and its restructured technical department, confessing that his confidence in the team has never been stronger. “Do I have confidence in it? I would say yes,” he asserted before adding, “After this year, I would say I have more confidence than ever that the team can look into these things that we want as drivers and actually start to chip away at them.”
An important aspect of McLaren‘s journey towards improvement is the brand new wind tunnel at Woking. This comes after using the Toyota facility in Cologne since 2010.
Upon visiting the new wind tunnel, Norris shared his awe stating, “I’ve never seen the one that we actually were using before. It’s impressive, the level of technology now.” He emphasized how the complexity and technology in the wind tunnel were more than what met the eyes. Concluding his remarks, he outlined the unprecedented level of precision required for the wind tunnel to be functionally useful as, “pretty impressive”.