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Norris: Race wins, not F1 title, the realistic goal before 2026

Lando Norris thinks race wins, not titles, are the most realistic ambition for McLaren before Formula 1's rules reset in 2026.

The Briton has just signed a new contract extension at McLaren, keeping him at the Woking-based squad until 2027 at the earliest, which he hopes will put him on the path to achieve his world title dream.

But while McLaren has made rapid progress with its car to emerge as a challenger to Red Bull last year, Norris is cautious about expecting too much in the short term.

While he thinks that McLaren has the potential to build on its multiple podium finishing form in 2023, he's equally not getting carried away that it will be in a position soon to launch a full-on title challenge.

"[There were] moments we were close to winning races last year, and a few races we were not miles away from a Red Bull," he said.

"And, when you think of it, it was the most competitive car ever in F1.

"So, with the knowledge of, if you want to win one race, we are the closest we've ever been since I've been here at McLaren and for many, many years. But fighting for a championship is a bigger step.

"If you asked me, 'Do you think you can win races this year?' I'd probably be more inclined to say yes. But to go straight into, 'can you win races and a championship?'

"I think that's another level both for myself because racing at the very top is not something I've necessarily done for a while, but also for the whole team, for everyone here in the factory.

"It's a different level of pressure and excitement for the mechanics."

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Norris feels that McLaren right now does have the capacity to take on anyone over a single weekend if things go right, but probably lacks the consistency to do it every time out.

"Do I think we're ready to challenge them? Absolutely in those situations, and there's opportunities where we've been fighting against Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, and we've been fighting them and going against them head to head in strategy and pitstops and all of those things," he said.

"The majority of the time we've executed things extremely well. So, when it comes to pressure, I think everyone here is in a very good position.

"But as soon as you do mention fighting for a championship, I think everyone's mentality just changes that little bit. But I feel I'm ready to go against Max and Lewis and fight against them.

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"It just comes down to consistency and small decisions along the way, which are hard to predict when you're going against these guys, because you never know what their next move is and, at the same time, they never know what our next move is."

Norris feels, though, that the major rules reset coming for 2026 when F1 will introduce new engines and all-new cars, offers a brilliant opportunity for any top teams to seize the initiative and gun for the title.

"The championship, as much as I would love to say over the next two years, '26 is an opportunity for everyone on the grid," he said.

"So that's the big, big question mark. But we'll see how we do this year and then you can ask me the question again."

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