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Norris closer to McLaren and just as far from Monaco

WOKING, England (Reuters) - Lando Norris has moved literally closer to his McLaren team mates as he prepares for a new season that could cut the gap between the resurgent former champions and Formula One’s top three.

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 26, 2019 McLaren's Lando Norris ahead of the Russian Grand Prix REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

Monaco, the Mediterranean millionaire’s playground that is home to Mercedes’ six times world champion Lewis Hamilton and other rivals, is not on the 20-year-old Briton’s immediate radar.

“I’m firmly set in the UK,” he told reporters at the presentation of his team’s new MCL35 car at their Woking headquarters in Surrey on Thursday.

“I have changed place, even closer to McLaren. I timed it the other day -- it took me three minutes 20 seconds to get from here to my new place. That’s driving within the speed limit,” he added.

His previous commute, from Guildford, took him all of 25 minutes.

“I like going to London, I can be with my friends and have a lot of fun. If I move to Monaco I’m not going to enjoy things at all,” he said, adding that he was not in any case earning the sort of wages that would compensate for the loss of fun.

“My enjoyment takes over everything else at the moment and is more crucial for how I want to be and how I want to live life.”

Norris made a big impression in his 2019 debut season, not least for his light-hearted approach to social media and jokey relationship with Spanish team mate Carlos Sainz.

He said however that he planned to tone down some of that online frivolity because some people misunderstood what he was about.

“I’ll still be who I am, I’ll still do everything I do and have fun and still make jokes,” he said.

“But there’s times where sometimes maybe I need to, not shift my focus because I still worked hard... but things can get portrayed quite differently from what I know and see from doing myself compared to the outside world.

“A lot of people see me make jokes and whatever. And therefore they turn and put a lot of blame for mistakes I do on me having fun and them seeing me look like I’m not focussed compared to other drivers.”

Norris said he took the online trolls in his stride, and found 90% of the comments amusing, but admitted the criticism could also play on the mind.

The Briton, who scored 49 points to Sainz’s 96 last year to help McLaren finish fourth overall, said he would be starting the new season without the rookie stresses and could not resist a laugh at his own expense when he looked back on his progress.

“I’ve been told I’m not allowed to say the word I was going to say. But I was pooping myself a lot last year, especially at this point,” he said.

“Whereas now I’m a lot more confident, a lot more relaxed and that just prepares me better for the season.”

(This story corrects typographical error in paragraph 8)

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris