Lando Norris reveals costly error that led to narrow defeat in Imola

Lando Norris reveals costly error that led to narrow defeat in Imola

Lando Norris believes he needed one or two more laps to beat Max Verstappen and win the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday.

Lando Norris conceded that McLaren had prepared his MCL38 for a colder race as opposed to the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, as he lost the race to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by a mere 0.7 seconds.

Running in second for the better part of the race at Imola, Norris was closing quickly on the Red Bull driver as his tires wore down and his battery power ran out. But eventually, the Miami Grand Prix winner crossed the finish line just seven tenths behind the reigning World Champion.

Going into the final laps, Norris was more than five seconds behind the leader of the race, but he was able to catch up as his tyres held on better than Verstappen’s and eventually made his way into DRS range on the last lap of the race.

However, it was not enough to take the lead in the race, especially with his McLaren looking at least a match for the Red Bull RB20 in racing trim this weekend.

This spelled frustration for Norris after pushing his car to close the gap to Verstappen during the final run. He acknowledged that Verstappen’s quicker first stint, which included a sizable lead on medium tyres before the pit stops, might have made the difference on the day.

“Yeah, it hurts me to say but one or two more laps and I think I would have had him,” Norris said after the race. “So, tough, a shame. I fought hard right until the very last lap but just lost out a little bit too much to Max in the beginning.

“He was much better in the first stint, and obviously in the second stint we were stronger, but it just was a tough first half and a much better second half – and one or two more laps would have been beautiful, but just not today.”

The 24-year old believed he would’ve at least challenged the Dutchman wheel to wheel had the race been a lap longer. However, a mistake on the penultimate lap cost Norris the opportunity to start his final lap around Imola by using DRS down the main straight.

He was also unable to attempt an overtake before running out of road, but he was nevertheless praised for a great weekend and his third consecutive grand prix finish in the top two.

“As soon as I cleared the traffic and got back into my own rhythm then I felt good with the car, the tyres came back to me and I could push,” Norris added. “From then on the pace was amazing and it’s a good sign, good race pace is always a good thing to have.

“As soon as you get within two seconds you start to lose downforce and grip, the tyres start to overheat again so I kind of struggled for a couple laps, but once I understood how I had to drive again, I managed to get there.

“Like one more lap at least he would’ve had to defend into turn one and maybe something could have come from that but one lap too late. Maybe we could have prepared for a little bit more but nevertheless, I’m happy with the outcome.”

Charles Leclerc put Norris under pressure during his second stint, and even though he pulled away from the Ferrari and pursued Verstappen, it’s possible that defensive play also cost him the race.

“I’d would probably take out like four holes of front wing,” Norris added. “Once your tyres are where they are you can’t actually do a lot.

“We were expecting it to be a little bit colder today than it was so we set up the car more for colder conditions than hot and I think I paid the price in general, I had to do so much like of an introduction to the tyres and kind of bring them up so gently and look after them.

“If I didn’t, I just would’ve fallen off a cliff like the others did so my only chance was to drive my race and that meant being under pressure from Charles for more laps than I would’ve liked.”

Norris said the team needs to reassess their expectations for what lies ahead, given that McLaren has made notable performance gains in recent weeks as a result of their Miami upgrades going into effect, although he acknowledged it’s still a “surprise” for where he is right now, having secured his fourth podium in the last five races.

“I think we’re at a point now where we can happily say we’re now in the position of Ferrari and Red Bull, so it’s what we have to get used to,” he said. “But the team are doing a good job. I think we’re all doing a very good job, so it’s business as usual.

“It’s focusing on doing the same things, it’s just we’re fighting for first or second now. It’s still a surprise to say it’s frustrating not to win, but after last weekend and the improvements we made, it’s what we should have started to expect.”

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