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Formula 1

What excites ‘curious’ Norris about Ricciardo’s McLaren arrival

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Lando Norris says he is “curious” to see new McLaren Formula 1 team-mate Daniel Ricciardo’s driving techniques and off-track approach up close.

Ricciardo has joined McLaren, replacing new Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. from its midfield rival Renault after two seasons.

He is a seven-time grand prix winner from his five-year spell with Red Bull, and that combination of pedigree and experience has been hailed by McLaren as a major addition.

Norris, who is approaching his third season in F1, told The Race last year that it would be “cool to see what it’s like working with him”.

With just over a month before he works with Ricciardo trackside for the first time, Norris says teaming up with Ricciardo is one of the most exciting elements of the new season.

“Not because he’s good fun to be around, but because I like to work out the approach of my team-mates,” said Norris in a piece for McLaren’s official website.

“Daniel has a lot of experience: he’s raced with big teams, scored plenty of podiums and knows how to win grands prix.

“I’m curious to see how he drives a car and what his approach is.”

Ricciardo has been hailed as an “excellent driver to work with” by McLaren technical director James Key, who worked at Toro Rosso for the final season of Ricciardo’s time with the Red Bull junior team.

Key called him a “great reference point” for McLaren and believes that he and Norris will be “one of the strongest driver pairings in the paddock”.

McLaren’s racing director Andrea Stella has also stated that the most important thing for McLaren’s new driver line-up is to “preserve the conditions that we created to allow a high level of collaboration” between Norris and Sainz.

“We may have to adapt them,” he said in December. “Daniel is not Carlos and his relationship with Lando will be different.

“It may be similar, but it will not be the same and we need to be mindful of that and adapt with a view to maintain the standards.”

The Race Says

Ricciardo is one of F1’s most highly-rated drivers with Renault sporting boss Alan Permane last year claiming he was alongside world champion Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in the championship’s elite group.

The Australian is also one of the most popular competitors, entertaining fans with his enthusiasm and penchant for joking around.

But there is plenty of steel behind Ricciardo’s wide smile. He is an experienced driver, a motivated individual and a very aggressive racing driver who will give Norris a tough benchmark.

And that is exactly why Norris is so excited by his arrival.

Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1

The Norris-Ricciardo partnership has been played up as a guaranteed hit with F1 fans because of their light-hearted nature away from the subject of racing.

But both are wary of the potential for that to undermine their dedication to the cause.

“It’s not going to be a comedy show,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports F1 in December. “I’m going there for business, I’m going there to improve the car.

“My personality won’t. But I’m certainly not going there to be this meme power couple or whatever it’s described as these days.”

Norris is also becoming ever more experienced in juggling his own professional ambitions with his popular off-track persona.

He told me last year that “we’re fun characters and going to have a lot of fun” but “we have to be serious when it comes to” pushing McLaren in the right direction.

Daniel Ricciardo Lando Norris F1

They should strike up a very good, affable relationship off-track that is a long way from descending into farce.

That should mean McLaren maintains the “box of secrets” culture it enjoyed with Norris and Sainz over the past two seasons.

And in turn that gives Norris a wonderful opportunity to learn a great deal from one of F1’s best drivers.

McLaren finished third in the constructors’ championship last season and heads into 2021 with a new engine courtesy of its switch from Renault power to Mercedes.

Norris, who has promised a “handful of special, one-off helmet designs” again this year, said he is also “excited by the new challenges that come with each season”.

“No two seasons are the same,” he said.

“I love the feeling of going into the unknown. That’s part of what makes F1 so special. You don’t know what’s going to happen in each race.

Lando Norris McLaren F1

“Anything is possible and it’s all about embracing what the season brings: new people, new relationships, new drivers to compete against, new cars and new circuits.

“There are some new additions to the F1 calendar this season, but I’m also looking forward to hopefully going back to some of the countries we couldn’t race at last year – places like the US, Japan and Singapore.

“They’re some of my favourite places to go, not just because of the circuits we race at in those countries, but because of the great cultures we get to experience and, of course, the fans.

“I really hope we get to see more fans at the track this season, we’ve really missed them.”

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