Lando Norris says McLaren’s progress in 2023 has been outstanding after the team secured a double podium finish in the Japanese Grand Prix.
McLaren scored just 17 points in the opening eight races of the season, and was comfortably off the front-running pace after the Canadian Grand Prix. However, in Austria at the start of July it introduced an upgrade package and since then has scored 155 points across the following eight races, with Norris joined by Oscar Piastri on the podium for the first time at Suzuka.
“A P2 and a P3, couldn’t have asked for any more. The team did an amazing job,” Norris said. “My start was very good, I almost had Max – but Max is Max as well, so I didn’t have a lot of chance into Turn 2. I tried…
“The pace was extremely strong, compared to everyone. We’re not close to Max but we’re not miles away either, so it was a very good day, I’m very happy.
“We’re pushing. We’re getting there. The progress we’ve made is pretty outstanding. I’m sure there’s going to be some tough times to come but we’re getting there step by step and our first double podium together with Oscar, so a good moment for us.”
Norris believes Verstappen’s eventual 19-second winning margin would likely have been significantly smaller but for him being held up by Sergio Perez behind the Virtual Safety Car as the Mexican limped back to the pits with a damaged car.
“I was expecting probably a bigger gap. I think we all were as a team, and I think it would have been a lot closer. I lost eight or 10 seconds behind Perez under the VSC. I don’t know how hard Max was really pushing. I’m sure he could have gone a bit quicker if he wanted to, but to be only 19 seconds behind, he didn’t get a free pit stop, which was lovely.
“I think it’s just signs of our progress. It’s a track which has suited the car very well. I’ve been very comfortable since Friday to push and get in a good rhythm. I think that’s probably one of the most important things here, to feel comfortable with the car, get in a good rhythm. I could do that (in qualifying and the race), and that shows with our speed we were able to perform.”