Formula 1

The simple third year factor that helped Norris shine in F1 2021

On the back of a solid first two seasons in the series, where Norris had at times doubted himself, the Briton delivered a stellar 2021 campaign as he grabbed a maiden pole position and came close to victory at the Russian Grand Prix.

The way that he was able to overshadow well-respected team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was proof of his growing maturity and speed, and left his McLaren bosses in no doubt that he is a future winner.

But while the step up he made last year was impressive, Norris feels that it was just a case of natural progression that every driver enjoys when he gets a run of seasons under his belt.

“I always hate to leave an excuse as ‘lack of experience’,” he explained.

“Like, saying ‘oh, I’m just not as experienced’ is such an easy thing to use, and I’d hate to say lack of experience.

“I hate having to say that sometimes, and I didn’t want to believe that having that break in the winter and coming back knowing everything a bit more subconsciously is going to make much difference. 

PLUS: How Norris became more than just McLaren’s leader in F1 2021

“But also, because I’ve never done more than one season in any category since starting in cadets, it was hard for me to know the differences through the years.”

Norris also reckons that his qualities in F1 were made harder to judge by going up against the more established Carlos Sainz Jr for his first two years.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

“I think my second year was good, but Carlos I believe is one of the best drivers in F1 and he didn’t make me look as good, because he’s an extremely good driver and he did a very good job,” said Norris about their two seasons together. “So fair play to him.

“I think I got shadowed a bit by him, because he was doing an exceptional job and I think I’ve taken that next step, which would have been the same or maybe a bit better than him.

“That was through a combination of understanding everything from the past few years, having a bit of a fresh start, different team-mate and so on, and a slightly better car underneath me that I’m more confident with.

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“Plus that winter off, coming back refreshed and having a lot more of that experience ingrained in me. So I really saw that difference more than I did maybe for year one to year two.”

While Norris’ 2021 campaign started off very strongly, he concedes there were a few more challenges later on in the campaign – including the startline incident with Sainz in Brazil that cost him the shot of a decent finish.

“I’m very happy at least with the progress I made from last season working on those weak areas,” he said. 

“I think I turned some of those into strengths. Some of them still need some work but overall, we’ve done a much better job.

“The other things I did well was especially the first half being very strong. I think we came out at the start of the season extremely strong and I think we maximised what we did very well.

Norris had the upper-hand on Ricciardo in 2021

Norris had the upper-hand on Ricciardo in 2021

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“We maximised every opportunity we had to get onto the podiums to make the most of other people’s penalties and stuff.

“There’s definitely been a few places where I’ve made mistakes for sure, like Brazil, which was probably one of my biggest mistakes of the season.

“It’s such a small thing but it cost us a good amount of points and a possible race with Ferrari and to be ahead of them in that race.

“Maybe two or three other races where I just haven’t been on it, maybe just one or two positions down, but I don’t think any of which have put me out. I’ve not had any proper big crashes which have cost me points I think.”

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