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Beating Ferrari would be big boost for McLaren, says Norris

Lando Norris has enjoyed teasing his McLaren teammate Carlos Sainz Jr about how the Ferrari-bound Spaniard could be joining a slower team next season, but the Briton is also serious.

Norris believes McLaren have a real chance of finishing ahead of Ferrari in the Formula One constructors’ championship this season. If they do, the 20-year-old Briton has no doubt about how much it would mean for morale.

McLaren are third overall after three races while Ferrari, last year’s runners-up, are fifth.

“We have an opportunity to beat Ferrari. We have an opportunity to fight them throughout the season,” Norris told reporters ahead of Sunday’s (Aug 2) British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

“It would mean a lot to us as a team to take the next step and beat a team who have been front-running for a few years, for many years, to show the progress we have made. It would give us a bit more of that drive to continue on and beat them into the future.”

McLaren are the sport’s second most successful team in terms of wins and titles after Ferrari, but have not won a race since 2012. They are back on the up, however, with Norris fourth overall after three races and taking his first F1 podium in the season-opener at Austria this month.

“We still have our upgrade to come. Ferrari seem to be in a difficult position at the moment with what they are trying to do and achieve,” said Norris.

“They had their big upgrades, or a lot of them, for Budapest, so it is looking more hopeful than we were expecting because they are performing nowhere near what we are used to.”

Sainz Jr is moving to Ferrari in 2021 to replace four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, adding spice to the current track battle.

“There have been jokes made, but nothing which is rubbing it in. I know how karma works and how easily things can go the opposite way,” said Norris of the banter between him and Sainz Jr.

“We’re going to go to some races this season where Ferrari will beat us quite easily and Carlos will be the one saying ‘Look who’s laughing now’. I know that Formula One can change and they will probably do a very good job to return to their normal ways of being very competitive.”

Looking ahead to Silverstone, Norris added that Formula One drivers will be more organised in taking a stance against racism this weekend after a rushed and disjointed response at the last two races.

Mercedes’ six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who has taken a knee before all three races this season, said after the most recent round in Hungary that Formula One needed to show more leadership.

Norris agreed, saying there needed to be a coordinated response.

“Some people want to do different things, but we are all in agreement that we want to take a stand and show something in support of what we’re trying to do against racism,” Norris said.

“We will have a better structure and better plan in place for next weekend.”

Formula One is expected to allocate time in the pre-race schedule for drivers to take a knee, or protest however they choose, before the anthem. In Hungary, only 15 of the 20 drivers attended an unscheduled protest against racism. Eight took a knee, including Norris.

The Briton said he wanted to do all he could to combat racism, but what had happened was not entirely the fault of the drivers.

“With the conditions and everything (in Hungary), it was even more rushed than normal. I did my laps to the grid then had to go and speak to my engineer and then we discussed some things,” he said.

“It was the same with all the other drivers, with (Red Bull's) Max (Verstappen) crashing (before arriving on the grid) and every one having to do their job, speaking to engineers and preparing for a Formula One race.

“We don’t then have any time to go and do any extra activities, like we are trying to do currently.”

Silverstone is hosting two races, a week apart, as part of a calendar revised in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The second, also behind closed doors, marks the 70th anniversary of the first world championship grand prix held at the circuit in May 1950. – REUTERS

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