Optimistic McLaren hope to have turned the corner

McLaren's Lando Norris admits he can't afford to live in Monaco. — AFP
McLaren's Lando Norris admits he can't afford to live in Monaco. — AFP

LONDON — McLaren chief executive Zak Brown believes the British team have "turned the corner" and can look forward to the 2020 Formula One season with fresh optimism.

After years of disappointment, McLaren finished fourth in the Constructors' championship last season — their best finish since 2012.

"These are very exciting times. We have turned the corner, we have a long way to go but I am excited for the first race in Australia," said Brown.

"Our two drivers have brought a lot of energy to the team so credit to them — and McLaren is a fun place to be."

Carlos Sainz Jr celebrated McLaren's first podium in five years at the Brazilian Grand Prix and is again joined by 20-year-old Briton Lando Norris.

"We have hopefully put together a better package, a better car, and I have the feeling everything is coming together," said Sainz.

"We have a positive momentum from last season, and we are hoping to carry that on this year."

Despite being the best of the rest on the grid, McLaren still finished a mammoth 272 points behind third-placed Red Bull.

Between them, double world champions Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull claimed all 21 Grand Prix victories.

Norris, though, is more confident McLaren can break the stranglehold of the dominant top three teams this year.

"We have had the input into making this car, so it feels like my baby and I cannot wait to go and drive it," said Norris, who finished 11th in the drivers' championship in his debut season.

"If I think back to this point last year, I was pooping myself. Now, I am a lot more confident, more relaxed, and that prepares me for the season ahead."

Meanwhile, McLaren driver Lando Norris has revealed he is not paid enough to live the glamor life enjoyed by many of his Formula One rivals in Monaco.

Norris is about to embark on his second year in Formula One after a successful rookie campaign.

The 20-year-old was given a new McLaren deal last year, but his reported £400,000 ($522,000) annual salary is dwarfed by the multi-millionaire incomes enjoyed by star drivers like Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.

As such, Norris is not yet ready to join the motor racing tradition of moving to the principality.

"I am firmly staying in the UK," Norris said at his team's 2020 launch on Thursday.

"Compared to a lot of the other drivers, I am not earning the amounts that would make it more beneficial to live in Monaco than the enjoyment loss of going into London with my friends.

"Hopefully that is something I can look forward to in the future."

Instead of hunting for a plush abode in Monaco, during the sport's off-season Norris left his old flat to move into new accommodation within striking range of McLaren's Woking headquarters.

"I timed it the other day and it took me three minutes and 20 seconds to get home from the factory, and that is driving within the speed limit," he added.

"I like everything how it is now. I like going out with my group of friends, and I still have a lot of fun. If I move to Monaco I am not going to enjoy things at all."

Norris helped to take the wraps off the new car McLaren hopes will enable them to take another step forward on their journey back to the front of the grid.

Britain's most successful team has spent much of recent F1 history in turmoil, but they finished fourth in the constructors' championship last year, with Norris' team-mate Carlos Sainz recording McLaren's first podium in five years at last season's chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix.

"I get noticed a little bit more but I am not Lewis Hamilton," added Norris, who recorded a best finish of fifth in his maiden campaign.

"I don't get stopped everywhere I go. I am at the point where it is cool. I am not at the point yet where I need to go undercover.

"Now and then, you do get the odd face staring at you at dinner. You are trying to eat and then you have some guy watching you which is a bit weird, but I don't mind." — AFP