After winning the 2021 Italian Grand Prix – where Norris was second behind then team-mate Daniel Ricciardo – and finishing fourth in the constructors’ championship that year after being third in 2020 following considerable rebuilding effort, McLaren slipped back to fifth in 2022.
Its slide initially continued into 2023, where Norris and new team-mate Oscar Piastri struggled to get the MCL60 out of Q1 early on, before a much-vaunted upgrade programme delivered impressive gains that catapulted McLaren up the order.
It eventually reached a position where it was Red Bull’s closest challenger for much of the second half of the season.
Stella, appointed team principal after Andreas Seidl left to run Sauber ahead of Audi’s entry in 2026 late last year, has gained many plaudits for McLaren’s turnaround so far on his watch, but the Italian himself is keen to highlight Norris’s role in the orange team’s gains.
PLUS: How McLaren has revamped its F1 team to become a contender again
This was particularly because McLaren’s current lack of race-winning potential meant Norris has had to watch the rivals he grew up racing, such as George Russell, or his first F1 team-mate, Carlos Sainz, become race winners in the meantime.
“Lando is in a phase of his career which he kind of feels the pressure of: ‘I want to win a race, I want to be there with the guys that I know I’m as good as and I see them winning races’,” Stella told Autosport in an exclusive interview.
“I can really understand, the team can really understand the kind of stress that this can create.
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60 battles with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19 at the start of the race
“The first thing for me I would like to say is how good he was in coping with this stress.
“Because some other drivers could have reverted, could have transferred their stress onto the team.
“Could have said: ‘guys, I’m here, I’m ready to perform, but where is the car?’ Never heard anything like this [from Lando].
“His contribution, his support to the team has always been very constructive.”
Stella also praised new McLaren signing Oscar Piastri for “the way he keeps himself calm, controlled” on his way to ninth in the 2023 standings with two podiums and victory in the Qatar sprint race accrued during his rookie campaign.
“Therefore, always capitalising on his potential because he doesn’t create any unnecessary stress,” Stella added.
“That’s quite exceptional. And I can see why he was so successful in junior categories [where Piastri scored back-to-back Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles – a la Charles Leclerc and Russell – in 2020 and 2021].”