Lando Norris is having the best F1 season in his career so far, the only driver constantly in the points, with two podiums and securing almost always a top five final result, outperforming his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, still adapting to the new environment.
His good form is reflected on the championship standings: P4 in the driver's leaderboard, and a huge asset in McLaren's fight to secure P3 in the Constructors' Championship for a second year in a row.
Closest contender for the spot is Scuderia Ferrari, just twelve points behind McLaren. The Italian team recovered in Styria after a pointless race in France, with drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc ending respectively in P6 and P7, in spite of the Monegasque's issues following a contact with Pierre Gasly on the first lap.
Mixed feelings were in order for McLaren, as Norris got another P5 but Ricciardo, who had overtaken his way into the top ten, fell back because of a power loss and didn't manage to score.
Norris believes that Ferrari is a dangerous contender for the championship fight, especially once they'll solve their issues and score more consistently, as he told motorsport.com:
"I mean they’re just a little bit up and down. It’s not that they’re in trouble every race. I think Paul Ricard was particularly bad for them. But a lot of the tracks will suit them more than us."
Reckoning that the Scuderia's biggest issues at the moment are straights, the British driver added: "Considering how much they struggle on the straights still, on the GPS they’re one of the best in the corners, similar to Mercedes and Red Bull in a lot of the corners."
Even thought they're not at their best at the moment, to secure their advantage McLaren has to keep focusing on their performance and on how to improve it:
“So they’re our big threat at the moment. We’re still working hard, that’s why we’re not taking anything for granted at the moment."
"And we still have to keep chipping away and improving the car, because once they put it all together they can easily be ahead of us. It’s tough."
An area where the British team is doing better than their opponent is race pace, as Ferrari often starts ahead in the grid, with Leclerc having two pole positions already, but fall behind on Sundays:
“I think most of the time they’ve outqualified us this year already, and they’ve been on pole two times. So, it shows they have a very good car, and as soon as they sort their problems in the race, then they’re flying."
In the end, it's all a matter of which car is more suited to the track, as he concluded: "In some ways you would say they have a better car than us in certain scenarios and tracks and situations, and in others we have a better car like yesterday [Styrian GP qualifying]. So we’ll see.”
Norris finds "exciting" the rivalry with his former teammate's new team, as it's motivating not only for the driver, but for the team and the staff as well:
"A challenge is always good. It makes it more exciting, it makes the team work hard, and the only time you don’t like it is when they beat you. It keeps the guys working hard, and even back in the factory, but you don’t want it to be too difficult either."
He's looking forward to his next opportunity to increase the gap: “I enjoy it because it makes me have to work hard and push the limits and things like that. Hopefully we can do the same next week.”