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Norris expecting "difficult weekend" for McLaren in Italian GP

Lando Norris expects his McLaren Formula 1 team to have a “difficult weekend” at the Italian Grand Prix just one year on from its spectacular 2021 performance.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36, leaves the garage

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36, leaves the garage

Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Last season Daniel Ricciardo led Norris home in an unexpected 1-2 finish, helped by Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton colliding and taking each other out of the race.

However, when asked by Autosport if there was any evidence that this year’s car could repeat that sort of form, Norris made it clear that he expects a very different scenario.

“Sadly, not a lot,” he said. “I want to just have some faith and keep some belief, but I think it's going to be a very difficult weekend for us.

“But I think we are at a point now where we really understand the strengths and weaknesses of the car. I feel like we know now where we are going to be strong and weak.

“Now we have got to start putting good plans on how to combat these issues. And, of course, it's going to take time, but it's clear what it is.

“It's just can we really understand it and put that into the cars DNA a little bit? That's our next job. And we know it's going to take time, but we'll keep pushing for now on.”

After the Belgian GP Norris said that the MCL36 had good straightline speed, but questioned the effectiveness of its DRS, suggesting that he didn’t gain as much as rivals when it was opened. He now has a better understanding of what was happening at the Belgian track.

“No, that's not true,” he said of his earlier DRS comments. “I didn't have all the info.

“I think we were just running one of the smallest rear wings in Spa. So when you have such a small rear wing and you open DRS, there's not a lot of effect.

Lando Norris, McLaren, 2nd position, Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, and Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, 1st position, with the trophies

Lando Norris, McLaren, 2nd position, Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, and Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, 1st position, with the trophies

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“And when I would compare to Max, they had a much bigger rear wing on, so when they would open DRS, they gain a lot more speed than us.

“But even with the big rear wing, they're almost as quick as us with no rear wing.

“So that's what makes it more difficult. But it's not that [at Monza], it's just how the car performs in the very slow speed corners, high speed corners. Tyre degradation we suffered a lot with in Spa.

“I think we can make some small steps forward, and we've learned a bit from Spa that we can take into Monza, and even some things from here. But yeah, not something that's going to turn us around and then put us steps ahead.”

Norris finished seventh at Zandvoort last weekend, and given the battle with Alpine for fourth in the constructors’ championship he admitted to some frustration at losing out to Fernando Alonso, with the Spaniard gaining places under the safety car.

“It hurts, but at the same time I'm happy with today,” he said.

“I don't feel like I can complain that much. I think we did a good job, they just got a little bit lucky. That happens.

“Sometimes we get advantages and finish ahead of them and it goes our way, and today went their way. So not a lot to complain of.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“But I think there are still positives, if it was just my pace versus them, possibly I was a little bit better.

“Friday, their race pace was unbelievably strong. Even their quali pace was strong, for some reason, they just didn't improve into Q2.

Fernando said he had traffic. I think we tried to take advantage of them being held in Q2, but I think when he gets behind, even if it was 10 seconds, you have a safety car, and it bunches up and everything's back to square one again.

“He got through, we were much quicker than Haas and AlphaTauri and everyone, so they got out of the way pretty much, and then it was just him versus us.

“So yeah, it hurts a little bit. But I have to be happy with the job that I've done.”

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