Lando Norris says new McLaren Formula 1 team-mate Oscar Piastri has been “pushing me more” in the opening races of the 2023 season than former partner Daniel Ricciardo did over the previous two years.
Piastri joined McLaren after it prevailed in a battle for his services with the Alpine team and reached an agreement with Ricciardo to end his stay with the team a year early.
This followed Ricciardo’s struggles to adapt to a tricky-to-drive McLaren and two seasons spent largely unable to match Norris.
Norris suggests that the working relationship with Piastri is similar to that with Ricciardo. McLaren always spoke highly of Ricciardo’s professionalism and industry and Piastri has matched that. But Norris also says Piastri is showing signs of significant speed.
“How I worked last year and how I worked with Daniel, it’s not too different, it’s not like too many things change,” said Norris when asked about the difference between working with Piastri this year and Ricciardo last year.
“There’s maybe a bit more [providing] the knowledge of how we were in previous years to look at the development from last year to this year and things like that. Apart from that, you both give the story of what’s going on with the car and what you want from the car, which aligns very well.
“I wouldn’t say we have the same driving style, but our comments and complaints are generally always the same. So I think that’s a good thing.
“He’s a lovely guy, down to earth, a normal guy, a worker. So it’s good fun. Different, I guess, to Daniel, I feel like a bit of a contrast of Australian [character], but still good fun.
“He’s very fast at the same time, so he’s probably been pushing me a little bit more than in the past couple years.”
Norris has had a clear advantage over Piastri, outqualifying him in four out of five sessions. His only qualifying defeat came in Saudi Arabia, when he clipped the inside wall in Q1 and was unable to continue.
In the last qualifying session held, for the sprint in Baku, Piastri was just 0.032s slower than Norris despite being eliminated in SQ2.
The gaps have been larger in the regular qualifying sessions – 0.449s in Australia, 0.274s in Australia and 0.330s in the main qualifying session in Azerbaijan. However, Piastri’s underlying pace has looked good and he had the potential to be closer in several of those sessions.
To compare that with Ricciardo, last year (where a fair comparison could be made based on the circumstances of the session), Norris’s average advantage was 0.355%. This year, his advantage over Piastri is 0.313%.
Piastri has only finished ahead of Norris once. That was in Saudi Arabia where he sustained front wing damage in a scrape with Pierre Gasly exiting Turn 2, with Norris also picking up damage as he passed through the debris field.
This isn’t dramatically different to what Ricciardo offered on paper. But when you factor in the fact Piastri is a rookie who is still settling in at McLaren, it amounts to a promising start.
What’s more, such comparisons reflect the performance over a full race or qualifying session, but Piastri has very often given nothing away to Norris through a wide range of corner profiles. As experience builds, he will start to join those dots of performance and avoid the odd error here and there that stretches the gap.
That will be what Norris is referring to, and highlights the fact that while Piastri has only had one points finish so far in his F1 career – eighth in Australia – he’s made a very promising start and has shown hints that he could be a genuine threat to Norris on pace as the season progresses.