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McLaren’s Speed Woes: Norris Speaks



McLaren Norris Formula 1

A Journey of Resilience in the Face of Adversity. Lando Norris’ journey through the Formula 1 grid has been anything but ordinary. Despite never having the fastest car at his disposal, he has also managed to steer clear of the slowest. However, 2023 brings a new challenge for the British driver. As McLaren grapples with speed issues, Norris finds himself in unfamiliar territory, demonstrating perseverance and adaptability in the face of adversity.

Unlike Lewis Hamilton who began his career with a winning car, or Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc who were rapidly promoted to one, Norris didn’t have such luck. But, he also didn’t endure the struggle of starting at the absolute back like Fernando Alonso or George Russell.

Before the most recent weekend, the only time Norris had ever been eliminated in Q1 due to pure performance (excluding engine penalties or major errors) was in Hockenheim 2019.

Now, he faces a new challenge. The 2023 McLaren car isn’t fast. While it’s not disastrously slow on its better days, it was the slowest car on the Miami track last weekend according to the supertimes method. This was just a week after the arrival of the first in a series of updates that were supposed to be transformative for the Baku race.

Norris ended up qualifying in 16th place and finishing the race in 17th. This ties his worst race finish ever, a low point he’s hit three times in the five races of 2023 so far. In Bahrain, he was constantly pitting for air system refills. In Saudi Arabia, he suffered early damage. But in Miami, except for being pushed wide at the first corner by Nyck de Vries, there wasn’t any specific reason for his 17th place finish other than the limitations of his car.

The team believed Norris was losing a few tenths of a second per lap due to damage from the De Vries incident, but Norris wasn’t sure it had much of an impact.

“It didn’t really alter my race, I would say,” he stated. “I’m not sure about the extent of the damage. There was certainly some, but our lack of speed wasn’t due to that. We were just quite slow.”


An early switch to soft tyres for Norris and his team-mate Oscar Piastri resulted in their first stints lasting only four and five laps respectively. They made little progress during that period before settling into lengthy stretches on hard tyres. This was indeed a completely new experience for them.

“When you’re in such a position, you’re just trying to hang on and see if anything unfolds. It’s unlikely that much will happen, but you never know, so it’s worth staying out just in case. There’s no point in quitting,” Norris commented when asked by F1Lead about his unusual experience at the back of the pack.

“I was experimenting with different driving lines and trying to get a better understanding of the car. That’s about it,” he added.

Andrea Stella, the team principal, noted earlier during the Miami weekend that, irrespective of the Baku upgrade, it was evident that the 2023 McLaren just wasn’t performing well in low-grip situations and when it needed to spend substantial time off-throttle and off the brakes.

Norris hinted that Miami was a somewhat misleading scenario, where a host of factors that exposed McLaren’s shortcomings coincided with a race where many of its typical competitors were performing exceptionally well.

“When asked by F1Lead about what specifically went wrong in Miami, Norris responded, “The track layout, the longer corners, the temperature, the track surface – none of these suit us. It’s a combination of many different elements.”

“No one was slow this weekend either. Perhaps the only other slow car was the AlphaTauris, everyone else was pretty quick. The Alfa Romeos, Haas, and Alpines were all significantly faster.


“So, I wouldn’t say we’ve deviated much from where we have been. It’s just that everyone else made a substantial leap forward and, in my opinion, a lot of this comes down to the car-track characteristics. It’s the same thing I’ve been saying all along.”

What Norris hasn’t often had to admit during his tenure at McLaren is that teams like Alfa Romeo and Haas are too fast to compete against.

Despite a disappointing 2023, Norris’s impressive record in F1 so far means that his reputation and his long-term prospects of securing a competitive seat won’t be affected significantly. However, it does make it appear less likely that McLaren will provide that competitive seat he truly deserves.

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