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Formula 1 Australian GP

Norris 'not driving at the level I want' with difficult McLaren F1 car

Lando Norris has admitted he hasn't been driving at his best level after an erratic qualifying for Formula 1's Australian Grand Prix, although McLaren says he's not overdriving the car.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Norris endured a messy qualifying session at Albert Park and took 13th in Q2 following slip-ups on his hotlaps, finishing three tenths off Williams's Alex Albon - who was the last driver to make the top 10 cut-off.

When Norris was asked by Autosport whether his mistakes were the result of a car that's inherently hard to drive or down to him to overdriving the MCL60 to chase performance that isn't there, Norris admitted it was a combination of the two. And he candidly shared that he hasn't found his groove yet with his 2023 machinery.

"It's a combination," Norris replied. "It's tough, especially when you're kind of close-ish.

"I don't want to just settle for a P13 or P12, so it's just a little bit of overdriving potentially.

"I'm not quite finding the rhythm that I want and the knowledge of every corner where the limit is exactly, so I wouldn't say I'm probably driving at the level I feel like I should hold myself to.

"But [it's also] a tricky car to drive, one that is easy to go over the limit on anyway.

"And then, when you combine that with trying to overdrive a little bit too much, then I made the mistakes like I did today. I am where I deserve to be."

Lando Norris, McLaren

Lando Norris, McLaren

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Norris' comments come off the back of an unforced error in Saudi Arabian Grand Prix qualifying, tapping the wall in the final corner that dumped him out in Q1 while McLaren is still chasing its first points of 2023.

Rookie team-mate Oscar Piastri also endured a disappointing afternoon. He qualified 16th for his home race after narrowly missing the Q1 cut-off, which was the result of an error of his own.

Team boss Andrea Stella appreciated Norris' trademark self-criticism, but he disagreed with the notion that either he or Piastri is overdriving the draggy MCL60.

Instead Stella felt the team should take the full blame for producing a car that lacks downforce and is difficult to master.

"I don't think Lando is overdriving the car, I think the car is tricky to drive, especially in braking, you always see it so much on the limit of front-locking or a bit of rear-locking," Stella replied when Autosport asked him about Norris' comments. 

"This is also related to the fact that the car needs to be pushed in braking to work somehow. And in tracks like this one, in cold conditions with the wind, it means that the margin to make a mistake is very, very small.

"The drivers need to attack because the underlying performance is not enough to go through sessions if they don't take this kind of risk. So I don't think I would call it like drivers are overdriving, they are trying to extract as much performance as possible.

"But the car is too difficult to drive and doesn't have enough underlying performance. This is a responsibility that is entirely on the team side.

"We appreciate Lando and Oscar not only trying to do their best while on track but also having this self-reflective, self-critical attitude. But we know that it's the team that needs to do a better job."

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