Lando Norris feels the McLaren F1 Team are much closer to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team and to Red Bull Racing in 2021 at the front of the field.
The Briton finished a strong fourth in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix last month, finishing behind only Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.
However, Norris does not believe McLaren are the best of the rest behind those two teams just yet, with Scuderia Ferrari and Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda in particularly showing strong performance levels at the Bahrain International Circuit.
“We’re close, we’re not miles away from Mercedes and Red Bull comparing to last season,” said Norris to Motorsport.com. “I think we’ve closed the gap quite a bit and hopefully at some tracks close it even more.
“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.”
Norris said McLaren went into the race, based on what they had learned during the pre-season test and in second practice on Friday evening, confident they could outrace Ferrari in Bahrain.
However, he believes the battle between them and with AlphaTauri will be close and he predicts days where the order between the teams will be jumbled up.
“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. 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.”