Written by Apostolos Papageorgiou, Edited by Tay Rui En
The 2022 Formula 1 season is officially at its halfway point and it’s safe to say it’s been an entertaining one so far, with many notable performances throughout the field. However, there is one driver, based on his current championship position, who isn’t getting the attention he should. And that driver is McLaren’s Lando Norris.
This is Norris’s fourth season in what has proven to be a very steady, if not a little unremarkable career. He may have had his breakthrough in F1 at the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix, where he scored his maiden podium, but it was the 2021 season where Norris really showed his potential, scoring a total of four podiums in 14 races (three third places and a runner-up spot). He ultimately finished the season in sixth place, two places and 45 points ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo. However in 2022, things haven’t gone so smoothly for McLaren, the team having taken a step backwards in terms of overall performance. As such, expectations for both Norris and Ricciardo have been lowered from last year. Yet, at the time of writing this article, the Brit is currently seventh, and leading the battle for the best of the rest.
So how good have Norris’s results been? The start of the season in Bahrain was a write-off for McLaren, having suffered brake problems both at the GP, as well as during testing. This resulted in Norris and Ricciardo finishing 15th and 14th respectively. Things improved in Saudi Arabia, with the team being the fastest customer Mercedes team, though that didn’t stop them from getting knocked-out in Q2, with Lando starting 11th. With decent race pace and a bit of luck, this turned to P7 at the chequered flag, though it could’ve been sixth, as Norris caught and passed Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, before the Frenchman got ahead once more, winning the drag race to the finish line.
For the next two races, McLaren were able to mix it up with their engine supplier Mercedes, partly due to the track design favouring their car at Albert Park and the wet conditions in Imola. Norris qualified fourth in the former, ahead of both Mercedes, but dropped behind them during the race, though thanks to retirements he still managed to finish fifth. Having finished his first run in Q3 in a superb third place, the British driver spun on his out lap, causing a red flag and depriving everyone of the opportunity to improve their position. He may have fallen to fifth in the Sprint race, being passed by the faster Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and Red Bull of Sergio Perez, but due to both Ferraris having trouble on a wet track on Sunday, Norris ended up in a very surprising third place, just like he’d done a year before.
McLaren were off the pace in Miami, although that didn’t matter, as Norris and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly made contact late in the race, resulting in a DNF for the former. Having been knocked-out of Q2 at the last minute due to a track limits violation, on top of suffering with tonsillitis the entire weekend, Norris put the team's upgrade package to good use by finishing in a very creditable eight place. With the car hooked up in Monaco, Norris ended Saturday fifth. An extra pit stop resulted in him falling behind Mercedes’s George Russell on race day, though he caught and almost passed his good friend, well on his way to set the fastest lap. Another Q2 exit in Baku meant that Norris had to fight for his place in the top 10. He spent virtually the entire race glued with teammate Ricciardo, whom he ultimately finished a place behind, in ninth.
Norris couldn’t catch a break in Canada either, apart from suffering from a mechanical problem that left him starting in 14th, he was also placed on a wrong strategy, and was faced with slow pit stops on top of a lack of race pace. It's no wonder he finished the race in a lonely 15th place. Things picked up at Silverstone, with him qualifying and finishing sixth, although he could have gone one place better, had the team pitted him earlier during the safety car. Finally, last time out at Austria, a brake problem forced the Brit to start the sprint race in 15th place, surprisingly, one position better than his teammate. Both drivers gained five places on Saturday, after Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas started from the pitlane. Norris again made progress in the race, ending up seventh despite feeling he could’ve been a place higher, had he not been given a five second time penalty for track limits.
As previously mentioned, Norris is sitting in seventh place with 64 points. That’s 12 points more than eighth-placed Ocon in the faster albeit more unreliable Alpine car, and a full 47 points ahead of teammate Ricciardo, whom Norris has outpaced and/or beaten six out of the nine times both drivers have finished their races. With his steady results, Lando is almost single handedly keeping McLaren alive in the battle for fourth in the constructors championship, contributing a whopping 79% of the team’s total points haul. He may not be the fastest out there, but Lando Norris definitely deserves more credit for the job he has done so far this year than he is getting.