Lando Norris has denied that he could have challenged Max Verstappen for victory in last weekend’s Mexico Grand Prix without his compromised qualifying.

Having been earmarked as one of the potential contenders for pole position, Norris slumped to a surprise Q1 exit in Mexico when he was caught out by a late yellow flag.

Starting 17th, Norris mounted a late charge to recover to fifth, prompting McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella to laud it as “one of the best” displays he had been a part of.

Asked to describe the secret to his display, Norris said: “What was my secret? Qualifying badly was my secret! Makes it a lot more fun coming from starting at the back.

“So, I mean, the pace was great all weekend. Maybe not amazing qualifying, but good enough easy to be into Q3 and so forth. So, we knew the pace was going to be good on Sunday, maybe not almost as good as what it was, especially that that final stint.

“I think the first stint was good, but just hard to make a lot of progress at the beginning. But a second stint, yeah, you know, once you get the tyres in a good window and things start to come towards you, then things started to flow. Felt very good out there.

“So, many different reasons but, yeah, just good pace, good tyre wear, good management, and that made it a very enjoyable race.”

After being encouraged by noting only the top two possessed greater race pace than him at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Norris rued that he must “tidy things up” to avoid squandering potential opportunities.

However, the Briton refuted the view that a stronger qualifying would have enabled him to compete for victory against Verstappen, who comfortably beat Hamilton by 13.8s.

Pressed on whether he could have fought the reigning World Champion if he had started towards the front of the grid, Norris retorted: “No. No chance.”

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren. 02.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Preparation Day.


Norris had initially been pessimistic regarding McLaren’s prospects in Mexico, expecting the track to expose the inherent slow-speed weakness of its MCL60 car.

The 23-year-old admits that his hopes for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix this weekend have been bolstered by the Woking-based squad’s surprise competitiveness last weekend.

Regarding McLaren’s expectations for this weekend, Norris said: “I don’t think anyone knows, really. Just some weekends we’re good, sometimes not so good. Definitely here and Mexico are the two races we weren’t expecting to be too strong comparing to Qatar and Suzuka, and things like that.

“So, not expecting to set the world on fire but I think considering how good Mexico was in the race, and where we potentially could have finished, if we started higher up, then I still look forward to it.

“But it’s never tended to be our strongest weekend, or one of the strongest weekends. So yeah, we’ll keep our feet on the ground and keep pushing. But I’m sure we can still have a good weekend.”

Meanwhile, team-mate Oscar Piastri, who will be experiencing the Interlagos circuit for the first time, concurred with Norris on McLaren’s prospects for this weekend.

“I think we should be reasonable,” the Australian added. “It won’t be our strongest circuit of the year, but I think Austin and Mexico the pace was reasonable.

“Like I said, maybe not as strong as some of the other circuits – I think Suzuka and Qatar were definitely two of our strongest. So everything from now on is going to look weaker compared to there.

“But I think the pace in Austin and Mexico was in some ways a pleasant surprise for us, it was a bit better than we hoped. So hopefully this weekend is more of the same, I think we’ll still be hopefully in the fight with Ferrari and Mercedes. Mercedes are looking very quick now in the last few rounds, so hopefully we can still fight with them.”

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