‘Couldn’t be more untrue’: Norris’ strange Ricciardo denial amid claims car ‘suited him better’
Lando Norris has claimed this year’s McLaren has suited Daniel Ricciardo’s driving style more than his own, denying that the car is the reason for his considerable advantage over the Australian.
Norris has had the edge over Ricciardo in their tenure as teammates. Last season Norris outscored Ricciardo 160-155, but that gap has widened considerably to 88-19 so far this year, with the West Australian wallowing in 14th place behind Lando Norris in seventh.
Ricciardo’s comprehensive defeat at the hands of the 22-year-old has been a major topic of paddock conversation over the last 18 months, with eight-timer race winner putting the difference down to a fundamental mismatch between his trademark driving style and the way McLaren builds its cars.
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It’s been suggested that Norris has been less affected by the MCL36’s quirky traits given he’s only ever driver cars made by McLaren and that his tenure with the team has naturally seen the team and his driving style come into alignment.
But speaking to the Beyond the Grid podcast, Norris protested that this year’s car better suited Ricciardo when it first rolled out of the factory and that it’s only thanks to changes he’s made to his own driving style that he’s taken the upper hand.
“There have been things said that he doesn’t suit the car, and everyone thinks that I do suit the car and the car is made around me and all of that stuff, but it couldn’t be more untrue,” he said. “Not that I hate driving the car I am driving now, but it’s very unsuited to my driving style.
“I would say at the beginning of the year it suited Daniel a lot more than it suited me in terms of how you had to drive it. That’s something I really struggled with at the beginning of the season and I’m coping with or [have] adapted to it a lot more now — I would say [I’ve become] more well suited to it.”
“But it is far from a car that I would want in an ideal world. If I wanted to go and do the best lap possible and [you] give me that car to go and do so, it is definitely not the car that I have now.”
Ricciardo’s form early in the season was comparatively stronger than it has been for much of the rest of the year. He was ahead of Norris when his car failed in Saudi Arabia, finished a strong sixth in Australia and should’ve scored a similarly good result in Emilia-Romagna before his first-lap crash.
But a form slump that began in Monaco has let up only occasionally, and he’s finished inside the top 10 only three times since.
The car’s natural development cycle has opened the door to more consistent pace, and though Norris admitted that he and Ricciardo want different things from the car, he rebuffed suggestions that his feedback has been given priority and resulted in a machine that’s been built around him.
“We do drive in different ways, and therefore what we request from the car is quite different,” he said. “But by no means is it anywhere near more adapted to me than to him.
“I’ve had to adapt a lot more to the car. There’s not a lot that the team can do for me in terms of car. They just make it as quick as possible all round. It’s not like, ‘Lando said this and we’re just going to do that, and Daniel, we’re not going to do that’. That’s just stupid to ever think.
“I feel like I am driving a pretty similar car in terms of characteristics as the car I drove in my first year in Formula 1. It’s changed in little ways, but nothing I would say now is more adapted to me than in my first year of racing.”
Nonetheless, Norris defended the Australian’s reputation in Formula 1, saying his body of work before arriving at McLaren meant he had nothing to prove despite his barren run of results.
“I think he’s proven in his career how quick he is, what he achieved when joining Red Bull, the wins he did — he never won a boring race, he always won exciting ones, did it in style,” he said.
“He proved it many times — in Monaco when he had to deliver in qualifying and stuff like that he could do exactly that.
“I don’t need to say it. I think everyone knows how good he is and what he can achieve.”
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And despite misleading representations in Drive to Survive suggesting there was friction between the pair, Norris said his relationship with Ricciardo was still strong.
“We’re still good friends but just not so close away from the racetrack because we live quite different lives,” he said. “We still have our laughs and we still have a lot of good moments together and times and giggles.
“I see Daniel a little bit more as a guy with more experience and I can learn different things off of him.”