Lando Norris: The enigmatic contender to beat Max in ’24

As the sun begins to set on another season of Max Verstappen’s dominance, one name is beginning to shine brighter than the rest of the challengers. Lando Norris, the young and electrifying McLaren driver, is emerging as the dark horse of 2024, poised to challenge his Dutch friend’s three-season run of titles. But as the spotlight intensifies on this rising star, critics are quick to point out one glaring flaw – his propensity for making little mistakes.

Red Bull’s team boss, Christian Horner, is shifting his gaze towards McLaren, leaving Ferrari and Mercedes in the rearview mirror. He states, “If they carry over their current form into next year, they will definitely be a contender for the title.”

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff glumly acknowledges McLaren’s meteoric rise. He recalls a time early in 2023 when they “barely got past Q1 in the first races” but notes with astonishment how they are now challenging the indomitable Max Verstappen himself.

Amid this thrilling narrative, McLaren’s new and impressive team boss, Andrea Stella, reveals a relentless and tantalising focus on the future. “We’ve been working almost full steam ahead on next year’s car since July,” Stella asserts. But it’s not all smooth asphalt for Norris and McLaren, despite Verstappen himself conceding some clear strengths of the Woking-based team’s current car. After Interlagos, he admitted, “Their car goes over curbs and bumps better than ours.”

However, in the world of Formula 1, perfection is a quest, not a destination. So while McLaren shines in certain areas, their suspension system still plays second fiddle to Red Bull’s in the ground effect era. Stella recognizes its significance, describing it as “very important, not only to bring out the aerodynamics in the best possible way but also as the only link to the chassis.” He commends Red Bull’s 2023 suspension system, emphasizing its fundamental role in tyre management, a critical factor in the sport today.

So as the crescendo of anticipation for the 2024 season starts to build, former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher adds a riveting layer to the story. Norris, he notes, has become Max Verstappen’s primary pursuer. Yet, amidst the accolades, a persistent critique lingers – Norris’s penchant for errors, especially during qualifying sessions.

“Lando has become Max’s number 1 pursuer,” Schumacher observes. “But he still makes too many mistakes, especially in qualifying.” Acknowledging this critique, McLaren’s Stella doesn’t shy away from the challenge. “What we have to do is minimize these miniscule mistakes,” he concedes.

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