“Ricciardo not a big upgrade”: Norris keen to lead McLaren following Sainz exit

Lando Norris believes new teammate Daniel Ricciardo is under pressure going into 2021. Norris went on to say that he does not believe Ricciardo is a “big step above” Carlos Sainz in his mind.

Norris and Sainz had established themselves as one of the sport’s most popular driver pairings during 2019 and 2020 at McLaren.

With Sainz moving to Ferrari, Ricciardo will now partner Norris at McLaren.

Sainz had a commendable season last year, finishing sixth on the constructors’ standings. He also finished on the podium twice across the two seasons he spent at McLaren.

While Norris does not believe there is a big gulf in class between Ricciardo and Sainz, he was quick to note the difference in “race winning experience”.

Ricciardo won seven races during his time at Red Bull. This is one of the reasons behind why McLaren signed the Australian. The team’s ambition is to return to the top of the grid and Ricciardo is believed to be a key ingredient to do that.

However, Norris believes Ricciardo could be under immense pressure.

“I don’t think the arrival of Daniel will make it any harder for me,” Norris said.

“I worked with Carlos who is an extremely good driver and there are things Carlos is going to be better at than Daniel and vice-versa.

“I don’t believe Daniel is a big step above anything that Carlos has achieved, and there is more pressure on him because he has been in Formula One for longer and he has to come in and perform very well.

“It is harder for someone to go up against a much younger driver than it is for a younger driver going up against someone with more experience.

“I am in that earlier phase of my career but I still need to perform very well, and there are no excuses for me anymore.”

While many expect Ricciardo to enter the team and lead from the front, Norris believes he is a worthy candidate too.

“I have more responsibility on me now than the past few years to lead the team,” he said.

“It is a big opportunity for me to take up that lead and I will work very hard on doing that.”

Ricciardo’s Renault adventure saw him bagging two podium finishes last season. With McLaren finishing third in last year’s constructors’ standings, there is reason to believe he can get better results this term.

“I feel like this team has a bunch of momentum and there is good stability,” Ricciardo said.

“When I first talked to McLaren in 2018 there were still quite a few moving parts. The results were not there on track, and they were trying to figure out their own structure.

“They have established that now and I am fitting into the puzzle as opposed to putting it all together.”

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