Heading into his third season at McLaren, under normal circumstances Lando Norris might expect to take on the role of de facto team leader, however his teammate this year is Australian veteran, Daniel Ricciardo, who has 7 wins to his credit and is about to undertake his eleventh season in the sport.
With the Australian’s arrival, not to mention the fact McLaren now has the best engine on the grid, Norris is aware that he must take a significant step forward this year.
“I think there’s a little bit more of a leadership role that I almost have to take,” said the Briton. “I’m not leading the whole team, but there’s more things I need to lead on myself, take on a bit more responsibility within the team, and that just comes with the experience.
“It wasn’t something that I could just do last year,” he continued, “it’s something that comes with experience, and getting to know the team, getting to know the car and also having Daniel in the team, a guy with less experience of working with McLaren and the people within it. That’s where I need to step it up a bit.”
Norris and Ricciardo are two of the most popular drivers on the grid, and though the pair have livened up many a press conference both insist that though they will both be working for the good of the team, from here on in they are focussing fully on the job in hand.
Indeed, the Briton reveals that other than those press conference get togethers he and Ricciardo had not had much contact with one another.
“The only contact I had with him was probably when you saw it, and that was in press conference and interviews and so on, or just in the paddock, on the grid, those kind of things. We never really spoke, or very rarely spoke via text or on the phone or anything like that.
“It’s, I guess, similar to Carlos,” he added. “I probably knew Daniel a bit more than when I knew Carlos entering Formula 1. I never spoke to Carlos once until the first day we actually met here in MTC. With Daniel, obviously I know him a little bit more already, so it’s slightly different.
“Things are a little bit further along but days like today, we’re in the factory together, we’re doing maybe some interviews together or something like that – those are the days you kind of get to learn and get to know a bit more about the guy you’re working with.”
Indeed, Norris believes he can learn from his new teammate.
“As a guy who has been accredited… he can win races, he can score podiums, he is good in probably every single area” said the Briton. “So for me, to kind of learn that little bit more from a different driver, get to know someone who has a different approach on things, and not kind of just get into the same habits that you get to know from one particular driver.
“It is good for me to just experience something different within Formula 1, get to see how another driver performs – because in Formula 3 or Formula 4 you sometimes have 3 or 4 teammates.
“So you’re able to work with a lot of different people, whereas F1 & F2 is just one teammate, it is a bit harder to know as much, you kind of get used to working with one particular way or style with that other driver; so to kind of switch it up and to get to know someone different, learn how he approaches his races and his whole mind-set of F1 is also going to be really interesting.”
Over the break, Norris tested positive for the virus, asked if this had affected his preparations for the new season he replied: “Luckily for me, COVID wasn’t too bad. It was a few days or so of initially having no taste, no smell, the normal really, and just feeling very drained and tired for a couple of weeks.
“Since then, I’ve basically fully recovered, everything is back to normal. I wouldn’t say that it really affected me too much, apart from a bit of the training.
“I wasn’t allowed outside at all, I didn’t have a window or anything. I just had to do some basic workouts in my room, no cardio or runs or cycles. But just doing what I could in my room.
“That was all. Apart from that, since then, it’s been a bit more back to normal, at my house here back in the UK, on my bike, on my treadmill, whatever, all the normal stuff, neck training and just getting back in the hang of things.
“Other than that, I’m good.”