Norris very happy with pace after another P2 in Suzuka: “We’re just where we deserve to be”

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Photo credit: McLaren F1 Team

Lando Norris finished second in today’s Japanese Grand Prix, after beating teammate Oscar Piastri at the start and outperforming his rookie teammate on race pace, forcing his team to swap both drivers halfway through the race. He then proceeded to create an eventual 17 second gap to Piastri on the way to McLaren’s first double podium since the Italian Grand Prix of 2021. The young Briton made an attempt to take the lead into the first corner following a better getaway from the line, but eventuall Max Verstappen had the better of him.

“Yeah, another amazing day for us. A P2 and a P3, couldn’t have asked for any more, the team did an amazing job.

“My start was very good, I almost had Max – but Max is Max as well, so I didn’t have a lot of chance into Turn Two,” he explained his first lap effort. “I tried, but the pace was extremely strong today, comparing to everyone. We’re not close to Max but we’re not miles away either, so it was a very good day, I’m very happy.

“Also for Oscar, his first podium in Formula 1, so congrats to him.”

The second place for Norris is his second in a row, but given the pace they had this one was much easier on his nerves.

“A lot less stressful. Especially the last five or 10 laps. But just I’d say better, because we have two cars on the podium. So from a team side of things, yes, I’m much happier. You know, our first one since Monza a couple of years ago, a few years ago, but probably, in a way, our most deserved in terms of we’re there on pure pace.

“Nothing had to go our way,” he added. “We’re just where we deserve to be, so yeah, an incredible day for everyone but also for myself. Things went, maybe not always to plan, but the pace was extremely strong.

“Couldn’t challenge Max. Maybe for half a car I actually got into lead for maybe half a second so I’ll take that. But, yeah, in a way, it feels better, because the pace was stronger. I could push and we were where we deserve to be, so a good job by the whole team to execute a perfect race.”

Just around the time of the first pitstops, Norris got stuck behind Sergio Pérez during the Virtual Safety Car that Pérez himself caused. It left the McLaren driver frustrated as he wasn’t sure what to do.

“I have no idea. I don’t know what… he must have had a problem, right? But the thing is you can’t overtake under the VSC unless it’s obvious the guy has a problem and I don’t know what was going on, I didn’t know if he had a problem, whether he was just backing me up. I didn’t know and I couldn’t take the risk of just overtaking him.”

The onboard showed that Norris had to take evasive action in Spoon curve, as Checo swerved to the outside.

“He was going so slowly and then when we get the flashing dash for the VSC ending, he went into first gear and then I was on the outside of him because he was going so slowly, and then he almost crashed into me,” Norris explained. “So I honestly have no idea. I was shouting in my helmet. I was swearing quite a bit, but just got… I was so confused, I didn’t know what I could do.

“I’m losing time to Max. The Ferrari guys were, I think, 1.4 seconds behind me after being I think 12s or 13s, so I lost 10 seconds. And I didn’t know what I could do at the time. If he has a problem, he should pull over and make it obvious that he has a problem. So he didn’t and therefore I couldn’t take the risk of passing under a VSC so no idea.”

Eventually the pace difference with the remaining functioning Red Bull was too big, so it didn’t hurt him too much, but a being a bit more able to put on the pressure would have been nice according to Norris.

“I don’t think it would have changed the world, just made me stress for a little bit more. But it would have been maybe just a bit better to put Max under a little bit of pressure at least, after that. I don’t think we would have been quite as far behind. So yeah, a frustrating time, maybe I’ll ask next time what you’re allowed to do but I think I did the right thing so all okay.”

The upgrade McLaren brought seems to have given them the pace to challenge Aston Martin for fourth in the championship, being 49 points behind.

“I didn’t think it was that close. But yeah, if it’s 49, then I definitely think so. There’s not many races left. I’m sure there’s going to be a couple where Aston are going to be a bit stronger. But I think our advantage at the minute comparing to almost every team, bar a couple, is we have two drivers who are up there fighting for these positions and fighting for this points,” he said. “And not every team has that at the minute. So I think that’s helping us.

“We can help one another, we can use one another, and I think that’s a good advantage we have over a lot of other teams at the minute. So we’re on an upward trend. We’re making good progress and days like today prove exactly that.

“Even though I know there’s going to be maybe some tougher races coming up at times and maybe not as straightforward as today but the progress we’ve made this season has been pretty incredible from my eyes and from where we were, to finishing 18 seconds behind the lead or 19 seconds is I think evidence of exactly that. So I’m proud of everyone and we’ll keep pushing.”

The 10 time podium finisher also added that he and his team were pleasantly surprised that the gap was ‘just’ 19 seconds.

“I was I was expecting him to probably lap us two or three times,” Norris joked. “And he didn’t, so… I mean, I was expecting probably a bigger gap. I think we all were, as a team. And I think it would have been a lot closer, I lost eight or 10 seconds behind Pérez under the VSC.

“I don’t know how hard Max was really pushing. I’m sure he could have gone a bit quicker if he wanted to. But to be only 19 seconds behind, he didn’t get a free pit-stop, which was lovely. And, yeah, I think it’s just signs of our progress.”

The pace was there straight from the get-go for Norris and Piastri, making the more experienced of the two quite optimistic.

“It’s a track which has suited the car very well. I’ve been very comfortable since Friday to push and get in a good rhythm. And I think that’s probably one of the most important things here, to feel comfortable with the car, get in a good rhythm.

“And I could do that yesterday. And I could do it today. And that shows with our speed we were able to perform. So yeah, another podium for us. Great result, load of points. So very good.”