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Lando Norris

Norris airs McLaren concern as it chases 'endless trail' of ideas

Lando Norris was upbeat about McLaren's Suzuka performance, but still feels long-standing issues are hampering the team.

Norris Japan
To news overview © XPBimages

Lando Norris has revealed he is trying to find a "magic bullet" that could limit McLaren's "losses" despite a promising practice day at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Although the MCL38 was tipped to perform at the high-speed Suzuka track, the package houses a long-standing weakness in slow-speed corners, with the hairpin and final chicane the major areas of concern for the team.

Norris recorded 10th and sixth in the two Friday sessions, which were disrupted by a red flag for Logan Sargeant crashing in FP1 and a rain-impacted second session, in which F1 champion Max Verstappen opted not to emerge from the Red Bull garage.

Team-mate Oscar Piastri was eighth and first in the two 60-minute sessions, and like Norris and team boss Andrea Stella, is optimistic about the Woking outfit's chances. The Briton, however, has confirmed the car is still "struggling in certain areas".

"[The car] felt reasonable and it was better than it looked because of the red flag which came out on my best lap, and then the tyres dropped off a lot on the second lap," Norris explained.

"We are in a good position, probably around the third-quickest team and it is very, very close with us, Mercedes and Aston Martin, but Ferrari and Red Bull are too far ahead.

"I was using different downforce to Oscar, a lower [configuration], and it did not seem to be as quite as good.

"We're still performing in the window we expect, and where we think it should be, but it is still a struggle in certain places, so the focus is trying to limit our losses in those places, and if we can do that, we can have a good day."

Norris has revealed, though, the difficulties for McLaren as it attempts to play catch-up with its front-running rivals in Red Bull and Ferrari.

Just over six months ago, McLaren delivered a superb performance around Suzuka in qualifying and the race, with Norris finishing second behind Verstappen and ahead of Piastri.

Fast forward, and Norris feels the issues holding back McLaren at present are far from obvious, forcing the team to chase ideas, often in vain.

"We work around everything, so you try as many things as you can, and every track is different, with the tyres and conditions, so there is always something more to try to find that magic bullet," said Norris. "But it is obvious we just lack downforce and a well-balanced car in slow-speed corners.

"You can try and make up for it, but it is trading stuff rather than just gaining, so it is difficult to catch up and it is an endless trail of: 'Maybe this or that is better' but it is the same with everything.

"Sometimes you decide it is best to leave it, and we are always trying hard to develop, and that's what we're trying to do."

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