McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo admits he did not appreciate Lando Norris’s full potential as a driver until spending a season alongside him as his team mate.
Ricciardo moved from Renault to McLaren for the 2021 season and regularly struggled to match team mate Norris’s performances, ending the season 45 points adrift of the 22-year-old in the drivers’ championship despite taking McLaren’s first race win in almost a decade in Italy.
While Ricciardo says he expected Norris to be a formidable team mate when joining McLaren, he admits he did not anticipate how often he would reach his full potential out on the track.
“In a way I was… I don’t want to say ‘surprised’, because there’s 20 of us here out of many in the world who are trying to get here,” Ricciardo said. “So I’m always expecting someone very talented, someone fast, but I guess the ‘scale’, you’re not really sure.
“I’ll be honest, probably like most of the world and F1, I think I knew Lando was good, but I didn’t know where the scale went to and I think he pushed that scale as high as it could probably go last year. Again, I don’t know another word for ‘surprise’ because I wasn’t surprised. I guess I was impressed – maybe that’s a better word – with his skill, with the level he took the car to. That was obviously difficult at times for me because I was not always there. But it was also encouraging to see that the car could be put to that level. It was just for me to then try and figure out.”
Norris’s performances over his first three seasons in Formula 1 have earned the faith of his McLaren team, who recently rewarded him with a major contract extension, keeping him with the team until at least the end of 2025.
With Ricciardo contracted until the end of the 2023 season, the 32-year-old says he does not feel under pressure to secure a similarly lengthy extension with McLaren.
“I think I’m in a different place in my career,” Ricciardo said. “Long term stability is not something which I guess I’m desperate for or I need massively. So we are in a different place.
“I do think that McLaren extending their contract of Lando is a good thing. I think it’s a good thing for the team, but also for Lando. Not only were his performances great last year and he’s – at least on his trajectory – getting better and better, but I know that he loves the team. This is the place he wants to be. That’s also the most important, as well. You need to be in an environment where you’re happy. So I think both sides cementing now this long term commitment, it’s a really strong thing, especially for a young driver. So, yeah, I think it’s a good move. And yes, I was happy to see it. I was definitely not not-happy to see it.”
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2022 F1 season