Norris extra motivated in fight for P4

Lando Norris says the battle for P4 in the Drivers’ Championship is giving him that extra push at race weekends.

The Briton started the season in style at the Austrian Grand Prix, scoring his first ever podium finish with P3, and since then he has kept his name in a large bunch of drivers battling it out for P4 in the Drivers’ Championship.

Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen will lock out the top three positions, and although Daniel Ricciardo is the current ‘best of the rest’ in P4 with 78 points, Charles Leclerc is only 15 points adrift of the Renault driver in P8.

Norris finds himself nestled in P5 on 65 points after losing that P4 spot following back-to-back races without points.

But that extremely close scrap for P4 is giving him an extra motivation to go racing with 6 rounds of the 2020 season to go.

“It’s nice to go into every weekend like this because you can find extra motivation thinking about it,” he told Motorsport.com.

“Of course, I don’t go into every weekend thinking about the Championship or trying to hold that position in the Championship, but it still motivates me and makes me push a little bit more.

“Obviously, there have been ups and downs. We started the year very well and managed to get the maximum from the first few races.

“As a team, we started very strongly, especially on my side. In this way, we had the advantage at first.”

Norris is wary though of Renault and Ricciardo after losing ground to the Aussie in recent weeks.

“Renault had a very strong rise in the middle of the season. I’ve made mistakes in a few places. Some tracks didn’t suit us as well as Renault,”he explained.

“We’re pushing too hard and trying to keep our position. But at the same time, it’s not that easy to achieve.

“One weekend we’re slightly ahead, while another weekend we may be slightly behind. So when we’re behind or we have the faster car, we try to get the maximum and earn more points.”

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McLaren are yet to fully understand the benefits of updates like their new Mercedes-style nose cone which they have introduced, but Norris believes McLaren’s overall upgrades are giving them some momentum for the remainder of the season.

He also teased further upgrades to come for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

“We haven’t had many updates during the year. We started the season with a very good package and it took him a while to understand it,” the Briton explained.

“The updates we’re bringing in now, the updates we brought in at the beginning of the season, and the fact that we understand the car better every weekend.

“Understanding, working on and developing today’s cars is very challenging. We have a plan for that.

“We’ve had a few updates in Russia, and there’s still going to be some minor updates this weekend, but they’re still not updates that will allow us to get second place in the Championship or do special things.

“We’re trying to put it all together and we want to make sure the car is working properly. We are trying to get the maximum from the package.”

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Norris: Sainz relationship only ‘benefits’ McLaren

Lando Norris believes McLaren’s P4 finish in 2019 was made possible by his strong relationship with team-mate Carlos Sainz.

The duo developed a reputation in their first season together for being the most entertaining duo on the grid, thanks to their strong rapport and array of pranks.

It did lead to some suggestions aimed at Norris though that he didn’t take F1 seriously enough in his rookie year, and while the Briton has said that he is looking to develop a more serious side, he also thinks his relationship with Sainz was key to McLaren securing P4 in the Constructors’ Championship – their best finish since 2012.

Speaking at Autosport International 2020, he said: “We’re both looking at the longer game of ‘if we both want to achieve what we want to achieve, which is to win races, to win championships, the best thing is to work together’.

“We wouldn’t have finished P4 in the championship as a team if we didn’t work as well together as we did last year.

“A big part of what we have achieved is because of how we work together, how we help each other, how we try and help the team.

“At the moment, it’s only benefiting us in every way.

“I hope it continues because I just want to have fun and enjoy it and he does as well.”

McLaren are hoping to continue their progress up the grid in 2020, and Norris says the team are trying to address their cornering issues of 2019 with the new challenger.

“Things aren’t as different as what they were last year,” he said.

“Last year was a completely different car, with a lot of mechanical problems.

“And you don’t always hear about every problem that goes on in a team and in Formula 1. But we were kind of suffering a bit at the beginning of last year.

“And there was a new car. So, we were trying to get as much understanding as we could get.

“Whereas this year’s car is much more of an adaptation from last year. It’s just working on all of the areas.

“I [also] want to say I’m more confident in my own driving, because it’s my second year in Formula 1, so I now feel a lot more confident.

“But also the team has done a very good job and [is] working on, particularly obviously the areas which we were not good [at] last year – that we were quite weak in.

“Which was almost every corner but there’s still more specific corners, which we struggled in.

“So it’s trying to work on those areas and, from the results I’ve seen, it’s looking positive. It’s going in the right direction, but we still need more to be really competitive.”

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Sponsor Unilever transfers from Williams to McLaren

Long-time Williams sponsor Unilever has departed the Grove-based outfit and initiated a technical partnership with McLaren.

The renowned British-Dutch multinational consumer goods company had been involved with Williams – through its Rexona deodorant brand – since 2015.

McLaren’s long-awaited revival last season, validated by its fourth-place finish in the 2019 Constructors’ championship, has undoubtedly boosted the Woking-based outfit’s commercial profile and helped it lure new partners to the team.

McLaren and Unilever will work together to drive developments in the field of engineering and digital while also promoting talent through mentorships, inclusivity programmes and the co-creation of an Engineering Academy.

“McLaren and Unilever are two organisations with a global reputation for innovating, inspiring and leading in the technology industry,” said McLaren boss Zak Brown.

“For more than 50 years, McLaren has been an innovator in engineering and the driving force behind cutting-edge technological firsts and pioneering breakthroughs.

“This partnership allows us to share knowledge and expertise between two global organisations, developing in integral areas to both businesses.

“We are looking forward to starting this partnership in the 2020 season.”

Dave Penrith, Chief Engineer, Unilever said: “This is a very exciting partnership for both Unilever and McLaren.

“Together we will use our combined efforts to solve both current and future challenges with some of the best engineering minds in the world, and also develop the next level of talent within our companies.

“The application of McLaren technology and culture will be an important component as we make our business ever more agile, sustainable and responsive to customers and consumers.”

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Norris reveals his ‘strong’ to-do list for 2020

Lando Norris has revealed the areas he is working on over winter in order to come back a more improved driver for the 2020 season.

Norris more than played his part in contributing to what was a very strong rookie line-up with Alex Albon and George Russell also impressing throughout the 2019 season.

Norris has been a breath of fresh air to Formula 1, but he feels that he was a bit too jokey at times during his first year at the highest level of motorsport.

On top of that, the Brit also has a list of areas where we wants to improve ahead of the new campaign and one of his main priorities is to increase his depth of knowledge about his McLaren car.

“There is a general few things that are repetitive on some weekends, when we get to qualifying, how Carlos finds his time and how good he is at adapting to track conditions and everything. Things like that,” Norris told Autosport.

“One of the biggest things I’ll be working on this winter is my knowledge of the car. How it works, not just how to drive it faster around corners or brake later or whatever.

“The set-up and everything like that. How to improve more as a package and [get] the car [to] work better for me, and me work better with the car.

“But then there’s some things in driving as well that I know I need to improve and every weekend it’s kind of similar things – I get a little bit better at but not enough.

“So when it comes to next season I [need to] put it together again, same as other things.

“I’m able to use those different techniques in different corners and different tracks.

“Some things are repetitive, some things are just more about knowledge and a bit of everything. I think I have a strong list of what I need to work on.”

Although there is room for improvement in Norris’ eyes, he is still content with what he was able to achieve in his first Formula 1 season.

“I’m happy with the progress I’ve made, the progress we made, my engineers, the team I work with, and I think it’s put us in a much better position for next year,” Norris added.

“It’s not like we’re only ever focusing on driving, it’s been a lot of the off-track stuff away from the track as well.

“We’ve been trying to keep on top of things and improve at the same time.

“Formula 1 isn’t just a game of who can drive the best, there’s a whole package you need.

“Some of the time it’s just been focusing on all these different areas.

“I had up and down races and everything [in 2019] but hopefully being able to put everything together for when it’s going to count even more.”

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Perez aiming to take fight to McLaren in 2020

Sergio Perez is hoping to “attack McLaren” in the 2020 season and also set a target of being “significantly closer” to the top three in Formula 1.

Racing Point finished the season in P7 in the Constructors’ Championship following a year which saw the team having to play catch-up after a change in ownership.

But Perez is hoping that a now settled and stable team will be able to climb up the table in 2020, not only taking on their midfield rivals but also making a big dent into the gap that separates that entire group from the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

“We knew that from the start, but it’s still tough in such a long season,” Perez told Auto Motor und Sport when reflecting on Racing Point’s 2019 campaign.

“We didn’t improve as much as we wanted, as we were late and had too much to catch up. But we have put a lot of effort into 2020.

“I think this can be the first season under the new leadership where we can be very strong. We want to finish fourth. That is our main goal.

“The team is now stable and I hope that in 2020 we will not only attack McLaren but also be significantly closer to the top teams.”

Perez, who finished P10 in the World Championship, has a long-term deal with Racing Point which expires at the end of the 2022 season.

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McLaren has ‘clear plan’ to return to F1 summit

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl is happy to have been given the “freedom” to develop a “clear plan” for the team’s future.

Seidl joined McLaren last year to take over as team principal and has overseen several key changes at the Woking outfit, including a switch to Mercedes power from 2021, a reshuffle of the management structure and an upgraded windtunnel facility.

Already the work is paying off with McLaren claiming P4 in the 2019 Constructors’ Championship, their best finish since 2012, while Carlos Sainz scored their first podium since 2014 with P3 in Brazil last year.

Continuing their progress up the grid is the main aim for McLaren, and while the budget cap from 2021 should make that easier, Seidl says that an in-house plan is coming together to take the team back to the top of F1.

He told Autosport that the team is in “the middle of a process of doing a detailed analysis of all our production facilities” and that it is working on a “clear plan” on “how we want to update our production facilities”.

He continued: “I’m really happy that I have this freedom to put my vision in place and bring my leadership style in and having the full support from Zak and the shareholders to put in place what I think we need in order to get back to the front in Formula 1.

“It’s simply important now that, after all the years of struggle, McLaren had to get some stability to the team and simply to have clear leadership and a clear vision of how we want to approach the future.

“And now with all these different milestones in place, like the regulations, [which] are communicated now, we know what we want to do, we know about the power unit in ’21, we have two great drivers we want to build on.

“So we have all we have a clear plan of how we want to update our infrastructure.

“We have a clear plan also how we want to organise the team in the future so we have everything we need.

“Now we really can simply focus on ourselves, it’s just down to us now as a team to make it happen. It’s a good situation to be in.”

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McLaren will max out budget cap to compete

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl has revealed that that his outfit will run at budget cap level from 2021 as they look to compete with F1’s big boys once again.

As part of the radical overhaul to the sport from 2021 teams will be capped at spending $175million per season, a cap designed to bunch the pack up.

While the top three, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, were said to be wanting a higher figure, midfield teams were unsurprisingly hoping it would be even lower.

But now the figure is set McLaren are intent on maxing it out as they chase titles once again.

“The target for us is clearly to run at the budget cap,” Seidl told Motorsport.com.

“There’s a clear commitment that we will run at the budget cap because obviously that’s the only chance to be able again to fight the big ones; you need to be on a level playing field in terms of budget.”

Ferrari have openly declared their intention to boost their 2020 budget significantly in preparation for the following season, but Seidl isn’t worried about this, believing there are more important factors to determine a smooth transition into F1’s new era than money.

“You need to be realistic to what is achievable,” he said.

“Even if someone will give us for next year a hundred million more, you first need to be able to digest that and to put a structure in place that actually can produce more output in this short period of time.

“This is why I’m not too worried about ’20, also not too worried about the quotes I’m reading at the moment that it will be the most expensive year ever for the top three teams.

“In the end, there’s a limitation placed on the CFD side, on the wind tunnel side, so there’s only so much you can do, and aero will also be in the future the key performance differentiator.

“They will have a head start, simply because of where they are right now, because they do a better job they have better methodologies in place, they have better processes in place and so on.”

McLaren head into 2020 as the best-placed team to challenge the top three having finished P4 in the Constructors’ Championship last year, their highest finish since 2012.

And Seidl admits that when he signed for McLaren he wasn’t expecting to end the 2019 campaign so high up the standings.

“When I signed for McLaren in November last year, I honestly didn’t expect us to fight for P4 in 2019,” he is quoted by Crash.net.

“Where we were competing this season in the field is very tight which means each race we had to fight incredibly hard for points to climb up in the championship and nothing was secured until the end of the season.

“Given the difficult times the team went through, this season has been an incredible step forward. It gives us a lot of motivation and energy.

“Looking ahead, we have to keep this momentum up and simply have to keep on pushing in order to achieve our ambitious targets.

“At the same time, we should never underestimate what our competitors can do. They all have the same high targets and will work very hard towards them as well.”

McLaren plotting when to take the upgraded B-Spec Renault power unit.

Seidl highlighted the French GP as the race which showed McLaren they could legitimately challenge for P4.

“There were several highlights,” he explained. “First, the French Grand Prix.

“We were clearly the fourth strongest team in qualifying and in the race, and it was at that moment that we thought we could genuinely fight for P4 in the constructors’ standings.

“The developments that we were bringing to the car were working well, and there were plenty more still to come. It was fantastic to see how the team back home in Woking were working hard to develop, produce and deliver the updates during the season.

“Another on-track highlight was the moment we secured P4 in the constructors’ table in Brazil. “We weren’t always the fourth-fastest team this year, but ending up in P4 meant we were the fourth strongest team overall.

“How we improved the car during the season, how we understood our weaknesses and how we pulled off the race weekends – the strategy calls we made, the qualifying performances, the driver performances – were all fantastic and P4 was the well-deserved reward.”

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McLaren intends to go to the limit on expenditure

McLaren says that it intends to match the top three Formula 1 teams in terms of expenditure once the sport’s new budget cap comes into effect in 2021.

From next year, teams will have to keep their spending to under $175 million per season. That will certainly cramp the style of teams like Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull who are used to being able to spend their way to success but is still a figure that the smaller teams on the grid can only dream of having on hand.

However for the resurgent McLaren team, which finished 2019 as ‘best of the rest’ in fourth place in the constructors standings, the budget cap represents a unique opportunity to get on equal terms with the top teams.

“There’s a clear commitment that we will run at the budget cap because obviously that’s the only chance to be able again to fight the big ones,” team principal Andreas Seidl told Autosport magazine this week.

“You need to be on a level playing field in terms of budget,” he explained. “[So] we will run at the budget cap, because obviously that’s the only chance to be able again to fight the big [teams].”

But despite McLaren’s commitment to matching the top teams in terms of expenditure in 2021, Seidl ruled out front-loading the effort by throwing even more money into their operation this year before the budget cap takes effect.

Seidl said that even if the team was handed an extra million dollars in 2020, there was only so much that was realistically achievable in the situation.

“You first need to be able to digest that and put a structure in place that actually can produce more output in this short period of time,” he explained.

“In the end there’s a limitation placed on the [computational fluid dynamics] side, on the windtunnel side,” he continued. “There’s only so much you can do, and aero will in the future be the key performance differentiator.

“This is why I’m not too worried about the budget gap not being in place in ’20,” he continued. “[I’m] also not too worried about the quotes I’m reading at the moment that it will be the most expensive year ever for the top three teams.”

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL34.
In addition, McLaren ends its engine partnership with Renault with a return to Mercedes power units from 2021, which will limit the advance development work that can be crammed into the next 12 months.

Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey has also said that he’s not concerned about the top teams throwing money at the problem this year before the new rules take effect.

“In 2020, all the teams will participate in effectively a dry run in terms of shaking out the bugs of accounting for the costs,” Carey predicted in October. “”Some teams had concerns or issues going on but they are increasingly supportive.”

But neither the new budget gap nor a wide-ranging overhaul to F1’s sporting and technical regulations is going to close the gap between the bigger and smaller teams overnight.

“They will have a head start simply because of where they are right now,” acknowledged Seidl of the current advantage held by the Big Three squads.

“They do a better job they have better methodologies in place, they have better processes in place and so on,” he added.

With that in mind, Seidl confirmed last week the latest changes in the McLaren management structure with the promotion of engineer Andrea Stella to the role of racing director.

“We have to keep this momentum up and simply have to keep on pushing in order to achieve our ambitious targets,” he noted.

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Brown expecting McLaren's future progress to 'get harder'

McLaren boss Zak Brown says the team’s progress will only “get harder” in the future as it attempts to close in on F1’s top three teams.

McLaren’s on-track performance took a significant step forward last year on the back of a management restructuring plan, with the papaya squad enjoying its best season since 2012 as it clocked in fourth and ‘best of the rest’ in the Constructors’ championship.

But the achievement was just another incremental step towards restoring the Woking-based outfit’s former luster and position among the sport’s top teams.

And McLaren will be challenged to sustain such linear progress in the future admits Brown, particularly as F1 ushers in a raft of rule changes in 2021.

“A lot’s going to be happening in 2020 and 2021,” said the McLaren chief.

“Let me start with 2020. The rules don’t change a lot, so I our goal has to be to continue to incrementally improve. Keep our head down.

“We’ve still got a lot to work on. We started last season more than 1.5 seconds off pole in and towards the end of the year it was as low as eight-tenths.

“That’s still a big gap we need to close.

And then, come 2021, it’s going to be the biggest reset in the recent history of Formula 1, and I think that’s going to be exciting,” added Brown.

“Not only for us, I think it’s going to be exciting for everyone who follows the sport.

“Again, with the budget cap coming in, that will help, but that’s not really going to settle in until 2022 and 2023.

“So, while we’re on forward progress up the field, it’s going to get harder the nearer we get to the front but all the men and women at McLaren are up for it.”

©McLaren

McLaren’s transformation started over a year and a half ago, when Brown initiated management changes which were later completed by a couple of high-profile recruitments.

It’s been a whirlwind past 18 months for McLaren, on and off the track.

“It felt like a long year but in reality, it’s been a very short window since we started making changes with our racing team in 2018,” explained Brown.

“Starting with the technical side, we signed James Key early on. We’re very excited to have him as our technical director and he and his team have been working hard to put together our 2020 race car.

“Andrea Stella has stepped up — he’s leading the team at race weekends — and then, of course, Andreas Seidl, our new team principal, has just done an outstanding job, bringing a tremendous amount of leadership to our racing team.

“With any great racing team, there’s a lot more than what you see on the track that goes into making it successful.”

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Norris resolves to take things more seriously in 2020

Despite a successful maiden season in Formula 1, McLaren’s Lando Norris is determined to change his approach next season by getting more serious about his racing.

The happy, smiling teenager (who turned 20 in November just before the Brazilian Grand Prix) was a breath of fresh air when he arrived in the paddock in March

He went on to out-qualify his experienced team mate Carlos Sainz 11-10 over the course of his rookie campaign, although he came off distinctly second-best when it came to actual race results.

Now that he has a full year of getting to know F1’s iconic circuits under his belt, Norris intends to do significantly better in his sophomore season.

“In some ways I think I’ve been almost been too relaxed, and had too much fun,” he told Autosport magazine.

“Maybe sometimes I’ve pushed it a bit too much in terms of making it too jokey, and not focusing as much as I should.

“When it’s become more serious, I haven’t focused as much as I should do,” he suggested.

He admitted that in his view he had failed to work on all the areas of his driving that he should have done to maintain his momentum into race days.

“It’s been good and I’ve been able to have fun in my first season,” he said. “[But] I think I started to take a little bit for granted.”

For all his smiles and jokes, Norris has frequently been notably hard on himself when he’s made small errors in qualifying or lost positions during the race due to an inevitable lack of experience.

Finding the balance between serious competitiveness while keeping his love for the sport alive will be one of the biggest challenges ahead of him in his second season in F1.

“There’s a compromise,” he acknowledged. “I still just want to have fun sometimes, wear my own jumper, things like that.

“I’ve not just come in and been surrounded by too many serious things and people,” he added. “I think that’s also helped in my ability to work on several things, and to improve as a driver.”

Norris ended the year by being honoured with the fan vote for Rookie of the Year, and credited a warm working relationship with Sainz as one of the key reasons for his success.

“Carlos was a good mentor for me,” he told Motorsport.com. “I learned a lot from him.”

“There are many things that have helped me to do better, that have helped me to beat him in some cases. That is because of what I picked up, thanks to him.

“He was very good himself and was open to helping me,” Norris added. “I tried to give him the same. This was also something good between us last season.

“He was a good person to learn from.”

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