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Norris exclusive: McLaren driver on how he battled lack of self-confidence in F1

In the second part of RacingNews365's exclusive interview with Lando Norris, the British racer opens up about his confidence, ego and how it feels when someone beats him.

Teams throughout motorsport spend millions every year in an attempt to find those precious few tenths or maybe even hundredths of a second to improve their car. Whether it be a new chassis, or a redesigned floor or lighter materials in the engine, teams, including those in Formula 1, are always looking to eke out every last drop of performance it is possible to find. But for all their efforts - there is one thing they cannot, and will not, ever be able to control - and it is perhaps the most important cog in the whole machine: the lump of organic material in the middle who actually has to go out and drive the thing. On paper, you could design the fastest car possible, but unless the driver is in a confident, positive, head-space, maximum results will not be extracted. And the harder a driver works, sometimes it just does not work out and gets even worse. The McLaren F1 team in 2022 is an excellent case study of this. Whereas Lando Norris has gone from strength-to-strength in his fourth season, more experienced teammate Daniel Ricciardo's form and confidence have fallen off a cliff as he struggles to adapt to the new cars. But as Norris exclusively tells RacingNews365.com, he was feeling nervous and doubtful even after he made to F1.

Less confident and nervous - Norris

Norris was promoted by McLaren into F1 for the 2019 season, replacing Stoffel Vandoorne after just a single-season in FIA Formula 2. Although his public persona was relaxed and social media friendly, Norris admitted he struggled with his self-confidence and nerves throughout his debut and second seasons in the championship - but that experience has helped him to order things. "I think doing well on track always gives you good confidence," he says when asked how he managed to improve his confidence in his own abilities. "I'd say even with my first two years, I was still, especially in the first year I was probably a lot less confident and a lot more nervous in every situation. I feel just I'm a lot more on top of things, I've more knowledge of what's going on every weekend, every session, I have a good plan of what I want to focus on and achieve. That's it. "I can separate that and everything I need to focus on in racing. I feel like I can [now] put that aside in any moment, and then just have a normal conversation and talk about racing or however I do things or whatever like now. "I don't need to consistently and always think about how to drive the car in the next session, because that's what I did in my first year of Formula 1. It's just: 'Why did I do that mistake? How can I do better next time?' and I'm just constantly thinking about that. "Even during interviews and chatting, whatever it was, now I can just separate personal life, personal chats, whatever, and then getting in the car and focusing on a job you got to focus on." Norris had a fast rise through the ranks of motorsport, going from Ginetta Juniors in 2014 to F1 in '19 via stops in the likes of ADAC Formula 4, Formula Renault 2.0 and the European Formula 3 Championship along the way. He admits that constantly moving up a level perhaps hindered him. "I think making an effort [helped] but also, Formula 1 is the first category I've been in for more than one year since cadets when I was 11 years old," he replies when asked about his growth as a driver. "[There's] no other category of racing I've been in for more than one year, so I think settling in with the team, getting to know each other and working with them for a long period of time, being able to figure out and spend more time focusing on your strengths and weaknesses and learning about them has helped me to be a more consistent driver and make fewer mistakes. "And also just figure out when I might make a mistake, and when not to and what things to look out for."

Norris reveals "excuse" he hid behind

Norris is yet to fight for the World Championship in F1 as McLaren tries to claw their way back into the contention with the big three teams, but he stacked up well against the two teammates he has had in Carlos Sainz Jr and Ricciardo - both former Red Bull young drivers. With the prospect of Oscar Piastri coming in to replace Ricciardo for 2023, Norris says he would be "hurt" if the younger Australian beat him. "It would hurt me a lot, because I want to believe I'm the best or if not, one of the best," he explains. "You work for so many years to try and be in that position, and you want to beat everyone, especially your teammates. "So if that time comes when you start to get beaten, that would hurt you inside, because that's the last thing you ever want to happen when you're racing. "You do everything possible in your nature to find ways to get on top of it and go quicker in and beat the teammate or whoever it is. "I don't think I've been beaten in a championship (George Russell beat him in 2018 F2 to the title), but I've been beaten many, many times in the race. "Even Carlos in my first few years beat me - (15-10 over the two years they were teammates when both cars were classified) - I felt like I could say he beat me because it was my first two years in Formula 1. "It was getting to a point when he was on top of things and performing extremely well, in a car that suited him well I wouldn't say any car suits someone, it's just a car that someone can find the limit of very easily. "That was tough. But I also accepted it, because I was inexperienced compared to him. "So that was kind of my little excuse. If I was to do the same now then it'd be more just fair and square. "He's beating me because he's done a better job. Simple as that."

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