McLaren Monaco GP setup and why Lando Norris thinks they will be competitive

McLaren are beginning to close the gap on Red Bull - and Lando Norris expects the team to be quicker at the next race in Monaco

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With a race victory and two second-place finishes in his last three races, Lando Norris is taking the fight to Max Verstappen in his McLaren car. The only question that remains is whether the Briton can keep this up on a consistent basis, with the 2024 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix offering their biggest challenge yet.

The 24-year-old came home in second in Shanghai at the Chinese GP in April after securing pole position in the F1 Sprint, and went one better at the Miami, benefiting from some good fortune with the safety car to claim his maiden victory in F1 after 110 race starts.

There was no sign of any drop-off at the Emilia Romagna GP either, with Norris crossing the line just 0.725s behind Verstappen at Imola. The panic in the Dutchman’s voice as Norris hunted him down at a rate of half a second a lap was palpable – and Oscar Piastri was rapid behind Carlos Sainz, eventually taking P4 in the race. In McLaren, Verstappen knows he has his biggest challenger since his world championship battle with Lewis Hamilton in 2021.

And when asked if they can be as competitive in Monaco as they were in Imola, Norris explained how they could go even faster with some tweaks to their setup, with more downforce likely to help them in slow corners, where they have struggled.

Race winner Max Verstappen and McLaren’s runner-up Lando Norris talk in parc ferme after the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP at Imola | Mark Thompson/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“We have a couple of changes for Monaco, like I’m sure everyone does and you set up the car completely differently to what you would set up the car here, so I don’t think it correlates exactly the same,” Norris told the written press in Imola, including Total-Motorsport.com.

“When we just set the car up for slow speed, we’re better. But when you have to set it up for high speed, it means we don’t have [pace in] slow speed [corners]. That’s when we we make the most of our strengths, which is high-medium [speed circuits] and we take the hit in slow speed.

“We have some little things and even the upgrade we had last weekend helped us a little bit move in the right direction. But my worst corner on track today was was Turn 14 to 15, the slowest part of the circuit, and that’s where I was losing most of my time still. So we still have that as a weakness and we know that we’re working on it.”

Norris: Driver confidence will be key

Monaco has been dominated by Red Bull over the last three seasons, with Verstappen claiming wins in 2021 and 2023 and Sergio Perez victorious in 2022. But with every development of their car, Red Bull have prioritised power over slower corners – and this is why they have typically struggled at circuits such as Singapore and Hungary in recent years.

That could play into McLaren’s hands, as the Papaya have been smart with their strategy this season to help Norris and his teammate Piastri score significant points. Their pit stops have also been the second-fastest behind Red Bull, and that will be a crucial factor in determining the winner in Sunday’s Grand Prix, with overtaking notoriously difficult around the streets of Monte Carlo due to the size of the modern cars.

More than anything, though, Norris stressed the importance of having the confidence to “commit” to getting as close to the perilous walls as possible if he is to celebrate his second win in Monaco.

“It doesn’t make me too concerned of Monaco because it’s a track where you want a good car, but you also just need to commit to everything,” Norris added. “It’s such a fast circuit, it’s not like you kind of just turn over the wheels slowly… you have to commit, you have to judge how close you’re going to get to the apex is.

“So there’s a big element of risk and when that comes into play, it kind of spreads out things a little bit too. I’m not concerned, I’m excited to go to Monaco because it’s so cool and I’m at least excited for Saturday.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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