McLaren Racing officially announced Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo as their 2021 Formula 1 drivers and unveiled the McLaren MCL35M this week in a launch party at the organization’s Surrey, England headquarters.
Norris will return to McLaren to compete for his third full season. Ricciardo moves from Renault to McLaren after two season with the rival team. This will be Ricciardo’s 11th season with Formula 1.
Looking to build on momentum from the 2020 season, McLaren expects to continue to battle for one of the top spots in the constructor’s championship. Last year they finished third in the standings on the strength of two podiums. Norris scored one of these early in the year with a third-place finish in the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. His teammate at the time, Carlos Sainz finished fifth in that race and later scored a dramatic runner-up result in the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
Ricciardo earned two podiums last year driving for Renault. These came at the Nurburgring in Germany and the Autodrome Ferrari in Imola, Italy.
Last year’s constructor’s championship showcased a fierce battle for third that might have gone to one of three teams in the final race at Abu Dhabi. McLaren narrowly beat Racing Point by seven points for the honor. Renault was 21 points behind in fifth.
“It’s crazy to think this is the 11th season I will be in Formula 1,” Ricciardo said at the launch party. “It goes quick. Even though that sounds like a long time, I still feel young and energized, but now with the benefit of all that experience.”
Ricciardo has seven Formula 1 wins to his credit in a career that has already spanned a decade. The most recent of these came in 2018 when he won the famed Monte Carlo Grand Prix after starting on the pole with Red Bull Racing.
Norris has only one podium finish. That was also his first career top-five finish, but he went on to score five more top-fives including the next week in a second race at Spielberg.
“Every time I get into the car I feel like I’m growing in confidence and experience, which helps me build my performance year-on-year,” Norris said in a release. “I’ve been working hard personally throughout the off season to be as sharp as I can when we get to preseason testing, and I can’t wait to get back in the car soon.”
McLaren also revealed their new car at the launch party. With new chassis and aerodynamic developments over the winter, McLaren introduced a new power unit supplied by Mercedes-AMG.
Mercedes won the constructor’s championship with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas last year.
“After a challenging but rewarding 2020, we have firmly hit the reset button for this season as we continue on our path towards the front of the grid,” said McLaren’s CEO Zak Brown. “This will be an even tougher season but we’re ready to meet the challenge.
“I want to pay tribute to Formula 1 and the FIA and our fellow teams in continuing to work hard for the benefit of our sport as we strive to bring exciting racing to fans around the world.”
Ricciardo has known he would race with McLaren since early in 2020. The announcement of his switchover came in May, when a seat at McLaren opened up with the announcement that Ferrari hired Sainz to replace Sebastian Vettel for 2021.
“It’s great to have finally joined the team after what feels like an age since we confirmed it last May,” Ricciardo said. “I’m thrilled to be a McLaren driver and super keen to get started. McLaren has been on an awesome journey over the last few years, and I’m looking forward to helping the team maintain this positive momentum.”
The 23-race 2021 Formula 1 season is scheduled to begin March 28 with the Bahrain Grand Prix.