The Woking outfit ended the 2023 season with momentum on its side, but thus far Ferrari you have led the pursuit of peacesetters Red Bull.

However, Norris, who logged McLaren‘s first podium of the season with third place in Australia, is encouraged by the fact that there is still more to come from the car.

“On the whole, I’m very happy,” he said when summing up the year so far. “Can I be happier? Yes. Can we all? Yes, because we always want more, we always want to be able to compete a bit higher.

“But I think for us to start the season in such a solid position, knowing that we can still improve on so many areas, it’s a smile on my face, because we’re in a good position, and we know we can get a lot better still.

“If you think back to 12 months ago, it was still a very, very different situation to be in. We’ve out-developed our competitors since this time last year by a huge step. It gets harder and harder to do that the closer you get to the top, but still plenty of things for us to do.

“So I’m happy with the step we made as a team. And I’m very happy at the work ethics and the effort everyone’s putting into trying to continue.”

Norris says it was no surprise that Red Bull maintained its winning form in 2024, given that the Milton Keynes team could make an early switch of its development focus to RB20.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB20, the remainder of the field on the opening lap

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB20, the remainder of the field on the opening lap

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

“The gap to Red Bull is completely expected,” he said. “If you look at when they stopped developing last year, they put a lot of time and effort into trying to develop a good car for this year. So for us to be still as close as we are to them, I think it’s a good sign.

“You would probably say the most impressive Ferrari has been, in how they’ve been able to take a very big step, I would say, probably one of the biggest steps from last year to this year. But for us to still be not far behind I think it’s a completely good sign for us.

“Of course, we always hope for that little bit more, and we hoped to just come out and be able to fight straight away at the front, but we took a step and we weren’t able to maybe tackle a few of things that we really have struggled to tackle in the last few years. But now more than ever we’re trying to tackle those areas.”

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Norris pointed out that McLaren wasn’t always the strongest rival to Red Bull in the latter part of last season, and thus it would be wrong to suggest that it has now been leap-frogged by Ferrari.

“There’s still plenty of races at the end of last year that we were not even close to being the second fastest team,” he said. “In Abu Dhabi, we were not even close to being second fastest team, or third fastest team, or even fourth.

“So I would never say yeah, we were the second fastest, and now Ferrari have jumped us or anything like this.

“I want to believe that we maybe have a slightly better all-round package, but I don’t think we’ve visited some tracks yet where we’ve seen as many weaknesses, like Zandvoort, for example – not looking forward to it ! And a couple of tracks that really show where the car is weak.”

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