Lando Norris believes McLaren can win races in Formula 1 2024, albeit only with significant car improvement upgrades and “right place, right time” fortune against Red Bull and Ferrari.

The orange team currently sits third in the 2024 constructors’ standings – 55 points better off and two places higher than at the same stage a year ago – and heads the Mercedes and Aston Martin teams in the tight battle behind the dominant Red Bull squad and Ferrari.

While that is a major year-on-year improvement, Ferrari has established itself as Red Bull’s closest challenger so far this season, a position McLaren largely enjoyed during the 2023 season run-in.

Ferrari’s off-season development work even helped it overhaul McLaren’s late-2023 advantages on high-speed tracks such as Suzuka, where two weeks ago the Scuderia recovered from its drivers qualifying behind Norris to beating him to the final podium spot adrift of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

After Suzuka, McLaren team principal Andrea Stella told the F1 Nation podcast that he still reckons his squad can “think about winning races this year” if it can replicate its impressive 2023 in-season development.

When asked about Stella’s comments in the pre-event press conference at this weekend’s returning Chinese Grand Prix, Norris initially quipped that he feels such an improvement for McLaren to claim 2024 wins is not possible in the short-term.

“Not any time soon – that’s for sure!” he joked.

Oscar Piastri at Japanese GP 2024

But he then went on to add how he feels: “I think we can [win with the] right place, right time – if we improve the car how we need too.

“Honestly, there weren’t too many frustrations with Suzuka,” he continued.

“Everything went pretty much as expected. I don’t think we did a perfect job and we probably should’ve finished one place higher up, potentially.

“But I don’t think it was far off. We’ve been the same place all season – behind Red Bull, behind Ferrari and we’ve been a bit of a step ahead of the other two teams come the race.

“And that’s exactly how last weekend went. So, I don’t think there was too many frustrations.

“But we know the issues, we know what we have to improve and if we can improve them, I think Andrea is right – we can win races this year and we can be competitive with these other two teams ahead of us.

“But that’s an ‘if’ and you have to work hard to improve the car in some of these certain areas, which have been a big challenge for us over the last many years, not just the last few years.

“But, if we can, then I’m confident we can have some good races."

McLaren is set to bring its first major 2024 upgrade for the MCL38 to the next F1 round in Miami, with potentially two more big development packages following later in the season.