How Lando Norris is showing he's a future world champion in 2022


Away from the noise over Daniel Ricciardo's poor performances, Lando Norris has been demonstrating his brilliance at McLaren more than ever, writes Adam Cooper

Lando Norris McLaren F1 driver at the 2022 Monaco GP

Though perhaps overshadowed by Ricciardo's woes, Norris McLaren performances have been ever the more impressive


George Russell’s superb form this year with the difficult Mercedes W13 has rightly earned the team newcomer plaudits, not least because he has consistently outrun Lewis Hamilton and finished in the top five at every race thus far.

However this has also been a good season for his friend and close contemporary Lando Norris, who has been quietly logging points while outperforming his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

If McLaren needed any further evidence of his commitment and talent it was provided in Barcelona, where he overcame tonsillitis to somehow bring his car home in eighth place. He still wasn’t quite at 100% in Monaco, and yet on a difficult day he still managed to earn sixth. In both of those races a fully-fit Ricciardo finished outside the points.

Lando Norris McLaren F1 driver at the 2022 Monaco GP

Norris has overcome everything that’s been thrown at him in 2022


Indeed the Australian has only scored once this year, logging sixth in his home race in Melbourne. Norris in contrast has been the points in five races out of seven, with third at Imola the highlight so far. He missed out in Bahrain, where both cars were uncompetitive after issues in testing, and in Miami, where he tangled with Pierre Gasly.

He currently lies seventh in the World Championship as ‘best of the rest’ on 48 points, just two behind Hamilton.

Now in his fourth year with McLaren and yet still only 22, Norris continues to show signs that he could one day earn a place among the greats of the sport as a multiple World Champion. Whether or not he can do that with McLaren remains to be seen, but he’s contracted to the Woking outfit until 2025, having extended his deal in February.

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It’s an impressive commitment by both parties, and by the end of it Norris will have spent seven years as a race driver with the team that gave him his chance.

Meanwhile much has been said and written about Ricciardo’s struggles over the past 18 months. The 32-year-old is a multiple race-winner and that talent doesn’t disappear overnight, thus when he says he’s still struggling to adjust to the McLaren MCL36 we have to take his word for it.

But is his situation being brought into even sharper focus by a brilliantly on-form Norris? In other words is it time to acknowledge that the younger man will one day stand comparison with the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher?

Norris has very little left to prove to the team and the people who have put their faith in him. But even they were impressed by the commitment he showed in Barcelona, where his tonsillitis meant that he hadn’t slept properly and felt like hell, and yet he still managed to make it to the flag in baking hot conditions. Giving up was not on his agenda.

“Of course it crossed my mind many times, because it was something that had to be taken into consideration, with how much I was struggling,” he explained in Monaco.

Lando Norris McLaren F1 driver at the 2022 Spanish GP

Though ill with tonsillitis, McLaren’s young star still impressed in both Spain and Monaco


“But we were doing everything we could to make sure that I was in the best place possible, and I had to give it a try. I would have hated to have gone out, or finished the race weekend and not have tried at least to do a few laps.

“That’s just not the mentality I would love to stick around with. It crossed my mind many times, and decisions were made. But I think in the end of the day it was always the correct one, so I was happy.”

Somehow he managed to keep going and stay fully focused on the job in hand: “I think one thing which really saved everything was it was the first time I used a drinks bottle in the car.

“I tried using one when it first came into F1 and I hated it, I’m not a fan of it at all. So I’ve never used one since, I don’t even run with the bottle in the car. So for the first time, we thought it’d be a good idea to try, and it really saved me, I think.

Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 driver at the 2022 Monaco GP

Ricciardo has struggled to get to grips with the new McLaren MCL36


“By the end of the warm-up lap before the start I had to have a few sips, because I was struggling already. But I just had to keep sipping, like every lap, which is not a nice thing, because it gets warm so quickly.

“I think without that I probably wouldn’t have made it past three laps, two laps, honestly. So that was like my rate of decline in terms of physically and mentally how much I was struggling. But just a few sips a lap managed to really save me quite a bit.”

It was a real iron man performance, and his eighth place probably represented the hardest four points he’ll ever earn.

As noted he felt better in Monaco, and the slow pace – and the red flag break – helped him physically. Having said that the race as always required intense concentration, especially in the wet early stages.

It also saw a rare moment of conflict on the radio as Norris wanted to get going while being told to save his tyres. In the end an extra free stop allowed him to push and claim the bonus point for fastest lap.

He’s keen to point out that like everyone on the grid he’s still had to come to terms with the 2022 car and its quirks, and it’s been a challenge for him as much as it has been for his team mate.

“I’m a little bit surprised how well I’ve done the last couple of weekends with how I felt,” he said after the Monaco flag.

“But I’m understanding more and more about the car. It’s still a new car. It’s not just for Daniel, it’s not just for other people, it’s the same for everyone. And there’s a lot of things that I’ve had to try and re-adjust to this year.

Lando Norris McLaren F1 driver at the 2022 Monaco GP

Monaco brought sixth and a fastest lap


“And I feel like I’m getting there now with that, and therefore I feel like I can unlock a bit more pace come qualifying, like [Monaco] and the race last weekend [Spain]. I’m just understanding things more.

“So it’s still a learning process for me, I’m still learning a lot of things, it’s not like because I’ve been with McLaren I know everything and everything works perfectly. It’s quite the opposite.”

His comments weren’t necessarily meant to highlight Ricciardo’s struggles, but it’s a good reminder that Norris has also had to get used to the MCL36, and yet has been able to do so much more effectively.

Lando Norris McLaren F1 driver at the 2022 Spanish GP overtaking team-mnte Daniel Ricciardo

Norris appears to easily have had the measure of Ricciardo in 2022, with five points finishes to the Australian’s one


“It’s been a new car for me, it’s new tyres, new set-ups and new everything,” he stressed.

“So in some ways, it’s still like a fresh start for me and a new team, and I have to re-assess how I drive the car in some ways, and I can’t drive how I want to in many ways.

“But I think you can see that with other drivers as well, with how Charles [Leclerc] has done much better this year relative to Carlos [Sainz]. Carlos beat him last year, and this year it just looks like Charles is in a much more comfortable position.

“Same with [Sergio] Perez, who is in a much better position comparing to what he was last year. So there’s quite a few changes this year with the car, and I think you’re seeing that evidently with drivers, that it’s suiting people more than others. But it also takes time for everyone to understand all these things.

“I feel only like now, so far into the season or I guess six, seven races, whatever it is, that I’m finally coming to terms with understanding this.”

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Having had another 10 days to recover Norris should be a lot closer to full fitness in Azerbaijan this weekend, and thus in theory he will be better able to fully exploit his increasing understanding of the car. Will we see more hints of potential greatness in the coming races?

“Obviously, it’s still early days to compare Lando with Lewis or Michael,” his team boss Andreas Seidl said when asked in Monaco if it was now evident that Norris is in that sort of league.

“There’s a reason why we are very happy that we could sign Lando for the long term: he has shown since he’s [been] with us at McLaren in F1, with the progress he has made in the last few years, and the performance that he is definitely something special. If I just see again this weekend how he’s pulling it off from the first run onwards, it’s impressive.

“At the same time it’s also very, very important for us as a team. Because the battle we are in at the moment for this P4 in the constructors’ championship is a very tight one. We are up against very strong competition, always having a strong car and strong drivers as well.”

Seidl is well aware that McLaren has to raise its game to match Norris’s expectations: “We’re very happy to have Lando onboard. Knowing the potential Lando has, seeing what he has shown so far in his F1 career, it’s simply down to us to give him a better car in the next years so that we can achieve our high goals that we are having together.”