Ricciardo had out-qualified Norris by a thin margin despite being slower than his young British teammate in all three practice sessions ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
But Norris had the last laugh when it counted, overtaking Ricciardo in the first lap of the race and launching himself from seventh on the grid to a highly impressive fourth-place finish.
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The Australian, who started in sixth, was locked in a gripping side-by-side battle with Norris throughout the first lap before a Safety Car was brought onto the track when Haas rookie Nikita Mazepin crashed.
Ricciardo was stuck battling Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who sandwiched him at sixth and eighth respectively.
He said: “I would have loved to have been in the battle for the win. Jenson (Button) was filling me in – it sounded like it was pretty good! I would have been more satisfied with that.
“But I think the weekend as a whole, pretty satisfied. The race itself I struggled with pace. I wouldn’t say it was a strong race by any means but plenty to work on and learn from.
“Definitely not discouraged just still definitely some work to do.”
Asked about his close first-lap battle with Norris, he said: “I actually forgot about that. It was good fun. I think he was about half a car in front when the safety car came out so he obviously got me there.”
He added: “As the race went on I felt like I was just falling back and back and just struggled to push on the tyre and keep it (at optimum temperature). I felt like I’ll just cook it.
“I’m sure there’s still some finessing that I can do with the car, and just learn probably what swet spot I’m after in the set-up.”
But he was pleased about his success with McLaren so far, comparing it to his move to Renault (now rebranded as Alpine) two season ago.
“I remember with Renault two years ago, this (Bahrain) was race two – and I was leaving pretty down still after race two. It did take time. I certainly feel much better right now.
“I feel like there’s for sure still things to learn. But I’m certainly much closer to where I need to be. It’s just going to take time … but Imola’s next. I like that place and we’ll go fast.”
Bahrain GP finishing order
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1hr 32mins 03.897sec
2. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Honda) at 0.745s
3. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 37.383
4. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) 46.466
5.Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull-Honda) 52.047
6. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 59.090
7. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:06.004
8. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Ferrari) 1:07.100
9. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri-Honda) 1:25.692
10. Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:26.713
11. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:28.864
12. Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1 lap
13. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault) 1 lap
14. George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes) 1 lap
15. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1 lap
16. Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari) 1 lap
17. Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Honda) 4 laps
18. Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes) 4 laps
DNF: Nikita Mazepin (RUS/Haas-Ferrari), Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine-Renault), Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Honda), Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams)
Fastest lap: Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1:32.090