Zak Brown strongly believes that both of his drivers at McLaren are capable of winning world championships, even though neither has achieved the feat as of yet.

Newly-signed-for-2021 Daniel Ricciardo narrowly outscored Lando Norris in the second half of the 2021 season, but Norris’ superlative performances in the opening rounds of the championship ensured he’d still beat his more experienced teammate at the end of the season by 45 points.

Norris earned four podium finishes, compared to Ricciardo’s one across the year. However it was Ricciardo’s sole podium at Monza that gave McLaren their first victory since 2012, leading Norris home to an incredible 1-2 after Verstappen and Hamilton collided at Turn 2.

It was the Australian’s first win off the back of a turbulent period in the sport since deciding to leave Red Bull at the end of 2018, and sign for Renault. Having struggled to master the Renault, especially grappling with attempts to pull off his signature late-braking overtakes, he turned to McLaren when Brown came looking for a replacement for Ferrari-bound Sainz.

Ricciardo endured an excruciating start to the aforementioned 2021 season with Norris comfortably beating him, and earning himself a new multi-year contract in the process. In light of the struggles for the driver many thought would get the better of less-experienced Norris, McLaren Racing’s CEO Brown is confident that the team’s move away from championship winning drivers is the right move.

“We’ve always had first and foremost race winning drivers, usually world champions. That’s the appealing thing of getting Daniel in the car, having won multiple Grands Prix gives you a bit of a benchmark,” reckons Brown when asked by about moving away from employing at least one world champion in the car.

“I think that demonstrates how good Lando is, which is not a surprise to us but you want that validation. We now have two drivers capable of winning Grands Prix, one that has done it, one that will no doubt do it and I don’t think you have to have a world champion in the car. I think what you need to have are two drivers that you think are capable of being world champions and I’m very confident we have that,” summed up Brown.

The American also heralded former McLaren driver Carlos Sainz, who jumped ship from the Red Bull camp, to Renault, and then to McLaren in a similar path to Ricciardo. He has since joined Ferrari.

“As far as Ferrari, I’ve honestly not kind of paid attention to them on the timing screens but there’s not much you can do about what other people do,” started Brown. “They’ve got two very good drivers, Carlos [Sainz] has done an outstanding job and that too was also not a surprise to us, he’s a hell of a racing driver and I think just a matter of time until he starts winning Grands Prix if he’s got a car underneath capable of winning. Carlos will be on the top step of the podium for sure.”

The story was written by Danny Herbert

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