Lando Norris believes that his McLaren team are “not miles away” from the leading cars of Mercedes and Red Bull on pace.
McLaren finished best of the rest last season after securing third in the Constructors Championship at the final round in Abu Dhabi ahead of Ferrari, Renault, and Racing Point.
The Woking-based squad look to continue that form into 2021 after Norris and teammate Daniel Ricciardo qualified up in sixth and seventh in the season opening race at Bahrain. Norris finished in fourth, the highest placed car after Red Bull and Mercedes.
“We’re close, we’re not miles away from Mercedes and Red Bull comparing to last season,” said Norris to Motorsport.com.
“I think we’ve closed the gap quite a bit and hopefully at some tracks close it even more – it’s hard to say if we’re easily best of the rest, I don’t know what the pace of the AlphaTauri was like, but I think the car is good.”
The young Briton had a tussle with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the opening laps – the McLaren qualified behind Leclerc but managed to overtake him and stay ahead throughout the race.
Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly was more of a mystery – the car is clearly quick having qualified in fourth, but the Frenchman damaged his front wing in a clash with Ricciardo. Gasly had to pit for repairs and was no longer in contention, however Alpha Tauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda managed to drag his car into the points.
Norris thinks this battle will to and fro all season and is looking forward to getting stuck in.
“Yeah, I think we kind of knew that from the runs in FP2 and the test we did here,” said Norris. “I think we’ve got an understanding of what [Ferrari] can do.
“Even last year Charles was ahead of us in qualifying and the Ferrari can be very quick in qualifying. During the races they seemed to struggle.
“I think we were just clearly quicker on pace, which was a good thing, but there’s going to be some races probably where they can look after the tyres better and be much quicker.
“It’s going to go backwards and forwards between us and Ferrari and with AlphaTauri it seems pretty close between us, so I’m looking forward to the battle.”