Gil de Ferran says McLaren have been working hard over the winter to prepare Lando Norris for his Formula 1 debut next week but admits they ideally needed more track time to get the F2 vice champion fully up to speed.
Norris was working closely with McLaren for much of last season in his role as test and development driver and appeared in several Friday practice sessions for the team once his signing for this season had been confirmed.
De Ferran said the team were taking a unified approach to supporting Norris during his debut year and the McLaren sporting director believes the good working relationship they have with the 19-year-old will be vital in ensuring he feels fully comfortable in his role.
“From our side, there was a strong awareness that this is going to be Lando’s debut so there was a lot of focus on that,” said de Ferran. “I guess we'll try to walk that road together, arms tied, the best that we can and we’ll see where we get to.
“I think if you have a good working relationship between driver and team, you can walk through difficult times and try to navigate those difficult situations as best as you can.
“It’s unfortunate in a way that we don’t have more testing, because certainly for someone like Lando, he would benefit a lot from having more days in the car.”
The Brazilian also said that Norris’ team-mate Carlos Sainz, who himself is new to the team, has undertaken much of the same preparation as Norris despite him already having 81 grand prix starts to his name.
“Throughout the winter, even outside of the car, we set out a very extensive training programme [for Norris] that frankly, Carlos went through as well.
McLaren’s @LandoNorris spoke to the media earlier, sharing his thoughts on the MCL34’s potential with one day of testing to go plus some insight on how he’s been preparing for his F1 debut in two weeks. #F1Testing pic.twitter.com/wfOl5w6Jsk — Rob Watts (@robwattsf1) February 28, 2019
“All of those things went well, but we’re going to have challenges in the future, undoubtedly, because that’s just what happens.
“Experience doesn’t necessarily make you quicker, it makes you a little more linear in your performances rather than being more up and down. I’m fully expecting challenges and the way to work through them is to work together and support each other.”
After a much stronger pre-season for McLaren in previous years, de Ferran also commented that the team has a much better understanding of their new car than at the same point last season, but as all team’s do, he was quick to play down talk of where they would wind up in the competitive order.
“We’ve certainly put a lot of effort into understanding our weaknesses and our strengths [regarding] the performance of the car, and in understanding the root cause of them - not only from a car design and performance standpoint but also on the organisational side,” said de Ferran.
“Actually, one thing to come out of this test is a decent understanding of how the car is operating and where we need to go to. From that perspective, I think it’s been a really good test. Have we done a good job? I don’t know! We’ll have to wait and see.