While Lando Norris may be leading the battle between the McLaren pair, Oscar Piastri’s debut Formula One season has definitely got a few people talking for all of the right reasons. The British driver was full of praise for the rookie in the traditional pre-race press conference at Suzuka following the announcement that Piastri had extended his current contract until the end of the 2026 season.
“Congrats to him, I think any contract that allows you to be longer in Formula 1 is a great thing. He’s performed, he’s done everything he’s needed to, and probably, I think, exceeded most people’s expectations from what he’s been able to achieve already this season.
“He’s pushed me a lot. And it’s not a nice thing. It’s not what I want. But yeah, he’s done a really good job. So congrats to him for another few years. And yeah, we’ve had a fun first half of the season. And it’s a lot of progress.
“I think for him to be part of that progress, and to hopefully continue that into next year. ’25 and ‘26 for himself, is going to be something to look forward to.
Norris was also very straight to the point when asked how strong the current McLaren line-up is when you compare it to the rest of the grid. He simply responded, ‘the strongest’.
McLaren’s reassurance this season really kicked off at the British Grand Prix and they have a fighting force at the front end of the grid ever since. However, Norris doesn’t know if McLaren quite has the pace to take the battle to the Championship leader Red Bull in Japan.
“It’s tough to say. I don’t know. I want to believe so. I think everything did it was what it was meant to do. And I think we definitely took some steps forward. I don’t think we’re confident in saying we’re as quick as Red Bull. I think Red Bull will probably be dominant this weekend
“I think comparing us to Ferrari and Mercedes then Mercedes have been just a lot more consistent than what we have. We still fluctuate quite a bit. On a good weekend, we can be very, very good and maybe a little bit ahead, like we’ve seen in Silverstone and things like that.
“But on the whole Mercedes have probably been the second best car this season, then Ferrari and then then us so far. We’re getting there. It’s still a very different circuit to Singapore with these upgrades. So there’s all things for us to find out and analyse from Suzuka.
After a disappointing weekend last time out for Red Bull, despite still scoring points, Norris believes that it is “pretty much a guarantee” that they will bounce back from their disappointment.