Lando Norris rued needing only “one more lap” to overtake Charles Leclerc for third place in the United States Grand Prix Sprint race.

Starting fourth, Norris lost out at the start to the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, who was the only driver in the whole field to opt for the Soft tyre rather than the Medium compound.

Although Sainz began to struggle as early as Lap 7, it took three laps for Norris to eventually edge ahead of his ex-team-mate into Turn 12, leaving him 5.4s behind Leclerc.

While Norris would rapidly reduce Leclerc’s advantage across the remaining five laps of the 19-lap encounter, the Briton came up 0.8s short come the chequered flag.

“It was a good afternoon, the pace was very strong, just struggled to get past the Ferrari of Carlos,” Norris said. “But the pace was way better than them, I caught Charles quite a bit, like five seconds in four or five laps.

“Good signs for tomorrow, I just struggled to get past. One more lap and I would have had Charles and been on the podium again. A near miss, but otherwise good signs.”

The Sprint race marked the first time in the entire weekend that the drivers and teams had the opportunity to collect long-run data ahead of Sunday’s 56-lap grand prix.

Despite being one of the fastest cars on the track in the closing stages of the Sprint, Norris asserts that the tyre degradation was “pretty awful” at the Circuit of the Americas.

“I think some questions were answered today, I think there’s still many more tomorrow,” he noted. “Tyre degradation was still pretty awful, even though we could keep kind of a consistent pace.

“You do feel like the tyres are finished already after three or four laps, so it’s a struggle, difficult to look after everything. Not making any mistakes I guess that’s the most difficult thing to do.”

Norris, who will start second, is optimistic that McLaren can battle Mercedes, accepting that it will be inevitable Max Verstappen will climb through from sixth at some stage.

“The pace is good, pretty similar to Mercedes I would have thought, so hopefully we can give them a good battle, but I’m sure Max will probably be coming through,” he concluded.

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren in Sprint parc ferme. 21.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Sprint Day.

Meanwhile, it was a challenging day for team-mate Oscar Piastri, who was unable to replicate the exploits that saw him win the Sprint race last time out in Qatar.

The Australian struggled throughout, dropping from fifth to 10th and ending up 23s behind Norris in the sister MCL60.

Piastri made contact with Sainz on the approach to Turn 1, but he believes battling other cars and ruining his tyres in the early stages cost him any shot at points.

Pressed on whether the incident with Sainz damaged his race, Piastri said: “I’m not sure to be honest, everything felt reasonably okay, so I’ll have to look into if there’s any damage.

“I also had a lot of battles with cars at the start and maybe took a lot out the tyres from that, so something to look at.”

Having lamented a mistake on his final qualifying run on Friday, Piastri admits it will be tough to make progress from 10th place amid a compact pecking order this weekend.

Asked if he predicts he can be more competitive in the main race, Piastri answered: “I hope so, everyone’s very tight this weekend, very evenly matched.

“It’s not going to be easy to make progress forward, but we’ll see what we can do and clearly a lot to try and learn overnight.”

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