Apr.23 - After Lando Norris chased his friend Max Verstappen to the chequered flag in China, McLaren is now setting its sights on Red Bull.

It's been a low-profile start to 2024 for the Woking based team, despite quietly and comfortably sitting between Ferrari and Mercedes in the pecking order.

Indeed, Norris made a friendly bet with his engineer on Sunday that he would be 35 seconds behind the nearest Ferrari in the Chinese GP. Ultimately, he beat both red cars.

"I was very wrong," he smiled.

Norris is under contract to McLaren through 2026, but Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko has mentioned his interest in the 24-year-old twice in as many weeks.

The Briton then flew back to Europe on Verstappen's private plane after they stood on the podium in China. "Lando was consistent, good tyre degradation - surprising given that Oscar Piastri was struggling," noted 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg.

McLaren - like Ferrari and Mercedes - are now planning to unveil car upgrades in Miami next weekend.

"I believe that we can still beat Red Bull this year," said team boss Andrea Stella.

"We seemed to lose ground because we gained so much ground when Red Bull weren't developing," he added. "Over a longer period, we're on a strong trajectory.

"If we keep this up for the next 12 months, why not?"

Eventually producing a winning car may be the only way McLaren can hang onto Norris, given Red Bull's clear interest.

"His father always jokes that Lando won't win a grand prix until Max retires," Marko said in Shanghai. "I told him that he has to come to us, then he would definitely go faster."

And just days earlier, the Red Bull advisor had said about Norris and Piastri: "Both drivers are certainly interesting for us for the future."

Sergio Perez sounded optimistic in China that he was heading for a new Red Bull contract, but Marko also hinted that an original request for a "three year deal" had been ruled out.

Verstappen alongside his friend Norris might certainly spice up Formula 1.

"If you see the same driver winning every single time without a fight then of course it does start to become boring and that is obvious," Norris said in Shanghai.

"If Max wasn't there and you had two Perez's it wouldn't be the case."


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