Lando Norris is (almost) sure: McLaren can fight to be the rest of the rest again in 2021, fighiting closer to Mercedes and Red Bull.
Bahrain's first race of the season showed us the potential of all ten teams on the grid: Mercedes took the first win, but not that easily, with Red Bull hunting right behind, with Max Verstappen and and incredible Sergio Perez, masters of climbing. Ferrari showed several improvements compared to 2020, and Piere Gasly's issue (after a contact with Daniel Ricciardo) didn't give AlphaTauri the chance to show its true potential.
McLaren's performances were not a surprise: the Woking team conquered the third place in the constructors in 2020, after a close battle with Racing Point. The Silverstone team, now Aston Martin, failed to deliver in the inaugual race, with Sebastian Vettel struggling to find the perfect feeling with the AM21 and Lance Stroll who only finished ninth. The mission, for McLaren, is to confirm last year's result, but with a biggest gap from its competitors.
"It is hard to say" said Norris, about the team being on top of the midfield again in 2021, but he feels like McLaren's performances are now closer to Mercedes and Red Bull's.
"We're close, we're not miles away from Mercedes and Red Bull comparing to last season," Norris answered "I think we've closed the gap quite a bit and hopefully at some tracks close it even more".
Last year McLaren was supplied by Renault, while this season the partnership with Mercedes is back since the breakup in 2014. Norris and team mate Daniel Ricciardo brought the MCL35M respectively in fourth and seventh, and the British managed to finish in front of both Ferrari and AlphaTauri, while the Aussie hit a floor issue after Gasly contact.
"It's hard to say if we're easily best of the rest, I don't know what the pace of the AlphaTauri was like, but I think the car is good".
AlphaTauri's performances are still not clear: Gasly's race was compromised after Ricciardo's contact, but rookie Yuki Tsunoda finished in the points in his first grand prix.
According to Norris, the gfight with both italian teams will "go backwards and forwards" all season long, but McLaren seems to have an extra touch in race pace comparing to Ferrari, quicker in qualifying.
"Yeah, I think we kind of knew that from the runs in FP2 and the test we did here," said Norris "I think we've got an understanding of what [Ferrari] can do.
"Even last year Charles was ahead of us in qualifying and the Ferrari can be very quick in qualifying" continued Norris, speaking to Motorsport.com "During the races they seemed to struggle. I think we were just clearly quicker on pace, which was a good thing, but there's going to be some races probably where they can look after the tyres better and be much quicker.
"It's going to go backwards and forwards between us and Ferrari and with AlphaTauri it seems pretty close between us, so I'm looking forward to the battle".