McLaren chief shuts down Lando Norris hopes in major boost to Max Verstappen

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella has claimed that Red Bull are a little too far ahead for the team to reel in before the end of the 2023 season. The reigning constructor champions have won 15 of the 16 races so far this year.

The Woking-based outfit went into the season opener in Bahrain with arguably the slowest car on the grid, leaving Sakhir with P17 and P20 finishes to show for their efforts. 15 races later, McLaren were the undisputed second-fastest team at the Japanese Grand Prix. 

Lando Norris was at his consistent best at Suzuka, keeping Max Verstappen on his toes as he secured a second-place finish. Meanwhile, team-mate Oscar Piastri secured the first podium of his promising F1 career in his rookie season.

Speaking about the team’s chances of going one better in the remaining six races, Stella explained: “[Red Bull are] still a step too far. But in fairness, at the moment it looks like Max is a step too far. There’s a variability of tracks left this season but none of these tracks have the Singapore characteristics.

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“So while there are some tracks where we could be competitive – I think Qatar should be a decent track for us – I am afraid the characteristics we like are also the characteristics where Red Bull will be just outstanding. We will have to be realistic that we need some situations to happen to be able to make the final step.”

These words will not be encouraging for Lando Norris after the 23-year-old issued a rallying call to his team in Japan. Speaking after securing his fourth podium finish of the season, he said: “Nice job guys. Double podium. We’re coming for Red Bull! Thank you to everyone in the factory, and everyone at the track, I love you all. Another one. Let’s keep it rolling.”

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Zak Brown echoed Stella’s realism after the Japanese GP, stating: “We are not going to catch them [Red Bull] this year, but we are chipping away. Max was dominant today. We should be quick again in Qatar.”

Thanks to their impressive results since the summer break, McLaren now find themselves just 49 points behind Aston Martin in the battle for P4 in the Constructor Championship with six rounds of the season still to come.

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