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Norris: Don't judge McLaren on Bahrain F1 performance

Lando Norris anticipates that Formula 1's Bahrain season opener may not suit McLaren favourably based on previous form, but says this should not be indicative of its season.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

McLaren has struggled in the past two editions of the Bahrain Grand Prix following reliability issues in 2022 testing, and a late switch in car philosophy that ensured it was behind in development over 2023.

This year has started more favourably with McLaren expected to be in a similar position to where it left off last season, although team principal Andrea Stella explained during testing that the team still had more work to do to close the door on the leading Red Bull team.

Norris had previously stated over last week's test that McLaren still had a long way to go and, when asked about that pessimism over where he expected the team to be in the first race weekend of the season, the Briton stated that Bahrain was going to offer more of a struggle compared to other races on the calendar.

However, he was keen to point out that results in the opening race were not going to decide McLaren's fate over the 2024 season, given the peculiarities of the Sakhir venue.

"Bahrain has never been a good circuit for us. We've never had one of our strongest races ever in Bahrain," Norris said.

"But I think it's way too quick to judge and just say, 'okay, we're not going to be great here in Bahrain, that's the end of the season for us.

"I think for everyone, because everyone's so up and down, you have to give us two or three, four or five races to get the first honest review of where everyone stands against one another, and not just judge it off of the performance that we're going to see here in Bahrain."

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Expanding further, Norris explained that the MCL38 was nonetheless a step up from its vastly improved MCL60 predecessor, a car that was transformed over the course of the season from a lower-midfield presence to a podium contender.

Norris added that, although McLaren hadn't made the progress that it expected to in certain areas of the car, it should nonetheless impress at circuits it went well at last season.

"It's a combination of things. There's stuff that we still need to tackle if we want to make sure we've taken a step forward. Which I think we have," he said.

"We've made the car quicker and that's very clear from all the data we've got. But, certain things haven't allowed us to progress as much as what I would have liked, and I think as we all would have liked as a team.

"Some of those issues I just highlighted a lot here in Bahrain just because of the nature of the circuit. So I'm still confident when we go to certain circuits we were very fast at last year, like going back to Suzuka and things like that, I'm confident we can still be one of the best cars.

"Bahrain has just not suited our car ever, necessarily. And exactly for that reason, I think that's why we're going to struggle a bit more here. But I'm confident we can turn it around later down the line."

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