McLaren commuter Lando Norris believes he is ready to go toe-to-toe with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the top of Formula 1.
The 22-twelvemonth-one-time Briton heads into his fourth F1 season non sure where his squad are in terms of competitiveness.
But he believes he has adult to a point where he has what it takes to win if the car is quick.
“I believe so,” Norris said. “Doesn’t hateful I’d always come out on top, only definitely a few times.”
- Andrew Benson’s 2022 season preview
- No regrets over links with Russia – Haas
- Vettel ruled out of season opener with Covid-nineteen
Norris is talking to BBC Sport in an unusually chilly Bahrain paddock on the eve of the starting time race of the season.
Hood pulled up confronting the common cold desert current of air, Norris admits he’due south “a fiddling bit nervous” equally to where McLaren stand later on front-restriction cooling problems afflicted them in testing final week.
Merely on a personal front end he heads into 2022 in a confident frame of heed after a breakthrough season last twelvemonth in which he established himself amongst the F1 elite.
Norris talks a lot about improving himself, about beingness “in a better position” in many aspects of his driving, taking “a big step forward last year”, particularly with consistency – achieving his highest level as often equally possible.
He’due south a perfectionist, you see.
“I am. I always want it to be perfect,” he says. “With everything I practice, I ever need information technology to be washed right and washed properly and I won’t be happy until information technology’due south done as shut to perfection as possible.
“And secondly, various things with driving, adapting to different scenarios and existence prepare to drive outside my comfort zone and getting used to more different driving styles.”
Enquire him if he will ever be satisfied, and he says: “Never. Maybe 1 day. I don’t know.”
He admits information technology is the lot of the high-achieving racing driver to be this style.
“You inquire most drivers ‘will you always be satisfied?’ and I think most would say no,” he says. “It is similar with all meridian athletes in dissimilar sports. They always believe there is a place they can do better.
“Nosotros always want to do that perfect lap. It’s almost incommunicable to ever do, but it is what we are searching and driving towards.
“Like with golfers striking a perfect shot or a perfect 18. They always desire to do one matter perfect and then put information technology all together and that’s when information technology comes to a whole race weekend.
“You desire to get to a point where everything’s subconscious. That’s when yous really get in your element and in a zone where you can go out and drive normally, merely your ‘normal and at ease’ is at a higher level than everyone else can do when they’re trying.
“Everyone has these moments when they become out and things just work, and you can just drive without thinking well-nigh information technology and they’re but very quick, and as before long as they went to improve something they exercise it and they’re fifty-fifty quicker.
“That’southward what you see with top drivers and it doesn’t mean you don’t work. It’s the reverse – you piece of work then much and you spend so much time trying to find perfection and gains that yous sympathise everything in the dorsum of your mind.
“In the back of your caput everything’s swirling around, but in the front of your head you lot don’t accept to think virtually what yous’re doing. And that’south when things are going very well.”
Competing with the best requires more than achieving a perfect connectedness between driver and car, though.
F1 drivers share the rail with 19 other competitive individuals. And at the front, the intensity is at another level.
Norris admits he’due south not sure how he would deal with a rival who drives as aggressively as Verstappen did against Hamilton at times terminal twelvemonth.
“It’southward a different battle because of how Max races,” Norris says. “It’s a different breed of drivers. You lot saw how he collection and changed when information technology came downwardly to those final races, with aggression.
“It’southward peradventure something you don’t experience so much in the midfield because you’re not going for a Earth Championship, or some of the drivers don’t take that mentality of risking everything.”
Would Norris exercise that?
“It’south difficult,” he says. “You would try and play smart every bit much as y’all tin can. There are things you would definitely attempt and outsmart your team-mate on. But I’grand besides a fair racer and, I don’t know, mayhap don’t push the limits quite as much in certain areas.”
Last year, Verstappen’s driving was at the centre of controversy as drivers sought clarity from race officials as to what was allowed in wheel-to-wheel racing later on a number of incidents in which he seemed to push a rival off the track but did not e’er receive penalty.
Norris says the result has been discussed between the drivers and governing body the FIA over the wintertime. The procedure is ongoing, he says, but at that place is simply so much he can say because the meetings are private.
“At that place’southward a large button towards having clarity,” Norris says. “Everyone’s talking well-nigh it. Betwixt the states every bit drivers we want clarity and consistency, and the FIA want the aforementioned. Then there is quite a big push on that.”
Whether Norris has the car to compete at the front remains to be seen. And – like his friend and rival at Ferrari, Charles Leclerc – he picks Red Balderdash equally pre-season favourites.
“I would go with Red Balderdash at the minute only Ferrari are definitely the closest after that,” Norris says. “They are downplaying themselves massively, equally they would.
“But consistently in every single run they’ve done since the kickoff lap in [the offset test in] Barcelona, they’ve been basically at the peak.
“It was just the final 24-hour interval [of testing last calendar week] when Cerise Bull brought some new parts along they took a little pace frontwards. But at the same fourth dimension Ferrari could have simply put a scrap more fuel in and just not looked as good.”
Of McLaren and his own hopes, he says: “I’g confident. I’chiliad ready for some good battles. I’chiliad excited for what is to come this year. I am motivated to do amend than last yr. That’s the aim and time volition tell whether that’s true or not.”
From Notts Canton to North Korea:
The tale of a trillion-dollar conman who sold a dream to the oldest guild in the Football League
The Audio of Peaky Blinders:
Cillian Murphy shares tracks that have been integral to the experience of the programme