Lando Norris has revealed he is ready to mount a challenge against Mercedes and George Russell next season, just days after the Silver Arrows were told they should have signed him to partner Lewis Hamilton.
Russell – who has been tipped as a future world champion – is now a Mercedes driver after Valtteri Bottas made the move to Alfa Romeo.
He will partner seven-time title winner Hamilton for the first time when the new F1 season gets underway in Bahrain on 20 March.
Norris, now heading into his fourth term in the sport, has his sights set on Russell – and Mercedes – when the lights go out in the Middle East in two months time.
Norris said: "First of all, I hope we [himself and Russell] get to go wheel-to-wheel.
"If we go wheel-to-wheel then I think we've had a good start to 2022. Or he's had a bad one!
"I think, of course, we're going to be optimistic and hope we can start the season well, and [hope] we can be closer to Ferrari, and Mercedes, and Red Bull, I guess especially those final two.
"So we'll wait and see. Time's going to tell.
"I don't think anyone really knows where anyone's going to be at the beginning of next season."
Will Lando Norris win his first F1 race in 2022? Let us know in the comments section.
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Norris's comments follow claims by F1 commentator Jack Nicholls and former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer that Mercedes should have picked the McLaren ace over Russell as Hamilton's new team-mate.
Nicholls said on the F1: Chequered Flag podcast: “If I’m Mercedes and I have a free choice in that second seat alongside Hamilton, I think I’m picking Norris over Russell after this year.”
Before Palmer added: "I’m going with Jack on it, I’m going with Lando. The way that he held off Lewis Hamilton at the end of that Sochi race until the strategy and the tyre choice got away from him, was unbelievable.
"For a guy that has never won a race, to have a seven-time World Champion breathing down his neck in a Mercedes…"
"Then it starts raining, and he’s still off the road a couple of times, scrabbling around, but keeping Hamilton, we all know how good he is in the wet, behind him. It was really legendary stuff I think from Norris."
Norris is yet to win a Formula One Grand Prix, despite coming close in Sochi last season and is determined to break his duck with his current time.
"My goal is to win races and world championships and over the last three years McLaren have shown me that they’re able to build a car for me to do that in," he wrote.
"I had my first podium with McLaren and I’ll have my first win with McLaren. Let’s continue what we started."
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