Norris “pleasantly surprised” with P2 he “wasn’t expecting” at the F1 Chinese GP after Sprint race struggles

Photo Credits: McLaren Racing
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Lando Norris drove a phenomenal race to secure second place at the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix and his second podium of the season, keeping pace with Sergio Perez’s Red Bull and comfortably beating both Ferrari drivers to the flag.

But after a difficult Sprint race which saw the Briton finishing down in sixth after running wide in battle with Lewis Hamilton at the first turn, the McLaren driver was able to bounce back significantly in the main race, making the most of the melee caused by the mid-race Safety Car to make his second pit stop under yellow flag conditions and rejoining ahead of Perez, which was a crucial point in his race. From there onwards, the 24-year-old managed his pace and tyres to secure his best result of the season so far.

Speaking after the race, Norris admitted he “genuinely wasn’t expecting” to be able to beat not only one, but two Ferrari cars to the chequered flag on Sunday – given Ferrari’s far superior pace that’s been on show in the first four races – and  even revealed he had made a bet regarding how much they were gonna finish behind the Maranello squad:

“I was surprised by many things,” Norris said. “The lack of pace from Ferrari, our good pace, and I guess us comparing to the Red Bull which was so surprising.

“I just wasn’t expecting today. I got everything ready to go home early and not be on the podium, so it’s a pleasant surprise. But it shows the team have done a good job, have worked hard and it’s paying off.

“I made a bet how far behind the Ferrari we would finish today. I thought 35 seconds – and I was very wrong by that.

“So happy to be wrong with myself, and my own bets, but a good day for everyone.”

He explained his assumptions came after a lacklustre sprint race in which he could only finish in a lowly sixth place after starting from pole, but pointed out how the very different ambient and track conditions made for a much better suit for the MCL38 come race day in Shanghai:

“I genuinely wasn’t expecting to [beat both Ferraris],” he said when talking to Sky Sports. “I think like we saw in the sprint race, we were struggling a lot. [Today] it was quite a bit warmer, the wind was quite different, the wind was much less and it was a lot colder. And both of these things just seemed to help out. I could manage the race quite differently.

“I was on my own. I could get past [Alonso] and control my own tyres, control my pace, control the race. And that’s not what I was able to do yesterday.

“So it was kind of a different race on the whole. But all in all, our speed was a lot stronger today. And that was a little bit of a surprise.

“So it’s a great thing. It allowed us to go on and get a podium, which we really were not expecting. So, yeah, pleasantly surprised.”

With his second podium of the season, Norris now sits in 5th place in the drivers’ championship, behind just the two Red Bulls and the two Ferraris, in what is already looking like a promising season for the young Briton. He believes McLaren will eventually challenge for wins this season given the right conditions:

“I said already in the beginning of the year that I think we can fight against Red Bull and we’ll be able to get a win this year. So it’s not going to come easy.

“I don’t think it will come for a while. But I said right day, right time, good conditions, things which suit our car a little bit more. 100%.”