McLaren With 'Strongest Driver Pairing Next To Ferrari' Says Hakkinen

F1
by Adam OndrikFriday, 26 January 2024 at 19:00
norrissainz mclaren car
McLaren and Ferrari have the most potent driver pairings on the 2024 grid, according to the double World Champion Mika Hakkinen.
One of the biggest "ifs" ahead of the 2024 season remains whether any of the teams could deliver their drivers a car that would be able to match Red Bull's RB20.
However, even if any of the nine F1 teams could, that doesn't mean Red Bull and Max Verstappen wouldn't still win both Championships. Driver pairings will be a vital part of the success of all of the teams in the upcoming season.
Asked in an interview with Bild about who would be Verstappen's biggest competitor in the upcoming season, the double World Champion named the Papaya team.

"I expect a lot from McLaren. After having a disastrous start to the season last year, they have developed very well and, above all, consistently. With Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, they probably have the strongest driver pairing next to Ferrari."

McLaren has the youngest driver lineup on the whole grid. While neither Norris nor Piastri won a Grand Prix in their career, both should have a decent chance of recording their maiden win in 2024.
Ferrari also has two relatively young drivers, but they are more experienced than McLaren's. The 29-year-old Carlos Sainz was the only non-Red Bull driver who managed to win a race in 2023.
And Charles Leclerc is considered the fastest on the current grid by quite a few experts. Ferrari showed they trust the Monegasque as the Italian team announced the contract extension for the 26-year-old yesterday.
When asked whether McLaren's current driver lineup is better than its former Hakkinen/ Coulthard duo, the double World Champion laughed and responded:

"Not yet! But both have the potential to become world champions. Piastri puts pressure on Norris. And Verstappen will also feel that this year."

The Prancing Horse and the Papaya team were the closest to the Red Bull at the end of the 2023 season. Could any of these two really challenge Red Bull for the Championship this year?