McLaren missed its winter development targets and started the campaign poorly, with neither driver scoring a point in the first two races.

But led by a three-stage car upgrade phased in from the Austrian Grand Prix, the team emerged as the second-fastest outfit behind runaway constructors’ champion Red Bull.

Those gains enabled McLaren to leapfrog early success story Aston Martin for fourth in the standings. And Norris believes there remains a great deal of scope for McLaren to take another step forward.

He said: “For us to catch Mercedes, for us to catch Ferrari in terms of pace… We've been behind them for two years, they've not really taken any steps forward and we've taken a massive step forward, and there’s plenty more things that we know we can improve on. It's a good time for us.

“A few more bits of the puzzle to put together but we found the key pieces. We know what direction to go in, so I'm really very proud of the whole team.

“If we were in Bahrain now and I looked ahead, I was dreading the season already. So, to come away with seven podiums and all the great moments we've had was definitely not expected.”

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris, McLaren, talks to the media

The 2024 season will be the first time that McLaren’s new in-house wind tunnel has had an impact on car design, while marquee signings (Rob Marshall from Red Bull, engineering and design; David Sanchez from Ferrari, car concept and performance) will officially start in their respective technical director roles.

These hires and McLaren’s major progress are key to the team tying Norris to a new contract, with his current paperwork due to expire at the end of 2025. Red Bull, Mercedes and Aston Martin are all suitors.

But the Briton is particularly enthused about the next 12 months at Woking. He continued: “I'm very excited.

“If we had just started the season how we were in the middle [of 2023 with the upgrades], we would be P2 in the constructors’ and P2 in the drivers’ championship.

“I know it doesn't always work like that. But we're on the right track. That's what I'm trying to say.

“We have some new hirings. The guys are coming in '24. So maybe not everything that they can bring to us we would have on the car straight away. But some things that we just already know now.

“We've learned already over the last four or five, six months, from the progress we've made, we've learned a lot. I'm excited because we're finally on the right track and we know which direction to push.

“I just want to start the season off well. If we could start well in Bahrain, I'll be a lot more excited.”

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2023-11-29T15:24:58Z dg43tfdfdgfd