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F1 News: Lando Norris predicts Red Bull’s closest rival in 2024

Lando Norris does not expect McLaren to fight Red Bull in Bahrain, although he predicts another team could take F1 news headlines.

McLaren performed reasonably well in pre-season testing, although they probably lacked the raw performance they might have wanted.

The British outfit will undoubtedly be at the sharp end in 2024, cementing their status as a top team after a resurgent last twelve months.

However, some of their immediate rivals have likely made greater progress.

The clearest example is Ferrari, whose SF-24 machine proved very impressive in Bahrain Testing.

Unlike last year, the Italian team seems to have produced a car that can look after its tyres.

On the final day of last week’s running, Charles Leclerc and Oscar Piastri completed race simulations at the same time.

Broadly speaking, the Australian was slower than the Ferrari driver. Moreover, tyre degradation was not a significant limitation for the 5-time race winner.

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With this in mind, Lando Norris believes Ferrari is currently Red Bull’s closest challenger:

“I think it’s clear [which teams are] the top two.

“Then there’s a bit of a bunch behind, which is Mercedes, Aston and us.

“But in terms of how the pre-season test went, it was a lot better than last year.

“And we’re in a much better position than last year, so that’s the most important thing.”

MCL38 is a solid foundation

It is easy to forget the position McLaren found themselves at this stage last year.

The Woking-based team were firmly in the midfield, some way adrift from regular podium contention.

Thankfully for the team, a brilliant sequence of mid-season updates reverted their fortunes.

However, as Aston Martin has learned the hard way, getting to the front is one thing. Staying there is another.

To be clear, McLaren is still in a strong position.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri should be quite frequently towards the upper position in 2024. Still, given their performance last season, race victories must be the next objective.

In this regard, the team’s winter development might not be enough to put the MCL38 on the top step of the podium.

Andrea Stella’s personnel will hope to harness the upward trajectory that saw them ascend so rapidly in 2023.

For now, though, Ferrari is widely regarded as the biggest threat to Max Verstappen and Red Bull.

The battle for third, as it stands, could be between the three Mercedes-powered teams: McLaren, Aston Martin and the Silver Arrows themselves.

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