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Norris a future champion as Ricciardo overcomes issues - What we learned from McLaren in 2021

Norris a future champion as Ricciardo overcomes issues - What we learned from McLaren in 2021

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Norris a future champion as Ricciardo overcomes issues - What we learned from McLaren in 2021

Norris a future champion as Ricciardo overcomes issues - What we learned from McLaren in 2021

McLaren enjoyed a return to form in 2020 and carried on its upwards trend last year by returning to the top step.

Yet despite its glory and consistent point-scoring with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, Ferrari was able to overcome the Woking-based outfit for third in the standings.

Whilst a slip to fourth seems disappointing, there was plenty to take into the upcoming season that should allow for hope and optimism that McLaren can once again rule F1.

GPFans takes a look at what we learned from McLaren in 2021.

Norris lays down championship credentials

One of the stars of 2021, Norris entered the discussion of future world champions with a series of remarkable drives.

It is hard to fathom how the Briton didn't finish in the top five of the drivers' championship given he was ahead of even Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull's Sergio Perez for a good half of the season.

Of course, Norris will rue missed opportunities in the form of his crash in Belgian GP qualifying that took away what almost certainly would have been his pole position, whilst a decision to stay on slicks as rain fell in Russia cruelly took away his first win in F1.

Such is his talent, however, Norris has been tipped by some to join Max Verstappen at the top of the sport in the coming years. Given the Dutchman's performance in 2021, that is some prediction.

Ricciardo provides optimism despite struggles

Not the start to life at McLaren Ricciardo would have wanted. The early part of the season in particular was difficult as the Australian struggled to adapted to the MCL35M.

There was a lot of anticipation as to how Ricciardo and Norris would drive the team forward, but the workload seemed to fall on the Briton's shoulders whilst the more experienced Ricciardo floundered slightly.

Yet as time went on, the race-winning ability showed glimpses of shining through. The race pace improved, qualifying improved to a degree and allowed more point-scoring opportunities.

The highlight of the season was McLaren's first win since 2012, courtesy of Ricciardo, who put in a vintage drive to seal his first victory since 2018.

There is plenty still to work on, but certainly nothing to panic about if you are a Ricciardo fan.

F1's favourites

A global fan survey conducted last year registered McLaren as the F1 fan-favourite team.

It is easy to see why, with the team's social media engagement a cut above the rest with behind the scenes access and quirky games being played involving Norris and Ricciardo.

The fact that the two drivers are two of the most liked in the sport is also a bonus, of course, but the more papaya lines the grandstands, the more a beaming smile will stick to CEO Zak Brown's face.

It is easy to overlook the job Brown has done, with the American all too happy to deflect praise to his team around him.

But to have built McLaren as he has done since taking over is quite special. The victory - and fan adoration- is a testament to his work.

2022 focus switch costs third

McLaren had the measure over Ferrari in terms of pace for much of the season but a number of factors contributed to its slip to fourth.

Firstly, Ricciardo's sluggish start ensured Norris' stellar performances were being nullified by double top 10s for Ferrari.

Then there are the incidents that McLaren drivers were involved in in the second half of the season, such as Mexico and Brazil where Ricciardo and Norris lost top five positions on lap one.

But crucially, whilst teams like McLaren switched focus to the new regulations for 2022, Ferrari introduced an updated hybrid system towards the backend of the year which, whilst aimed at its own 2022 power unit, provided a welcome boost last year.

The performance gained seemed to do the trick and with all factors added up, Ferrari took third relatively comfortably in the end.

Technical department back to form

Whilst McLaren's struggles in recent times began by blaming Honda's power unit, a switch to Renault power proved there were in fact deficiencies at home for the team.

The chassis was clearly not up to par as form continued to elude Alonso and Vandoorne and then Norris and Sainz struggled to make inroads towards the front of the grid.

But in 2020, results started to improve and as cars were carried over into 2021, the technical department got on top of issues and created clever innovations.

The diffuser used by McLaren last year was a classic example of using the rules in front of you and despite technical director James Key expressing surprise no one else had followed, the fact is it was clever engineering.

With McLaren's factory back on form for the beginning of the new developmental cycle, the team could be well-positioned to take advantage of 2022's new regulations.

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