Lando Norris has admitted that McLaren probably won’t be fighting Max Verstappen during the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday after he failed to convert his sprint race pole position on Saturday.
The McLaren star avenged a disappointing outcome in qualifying on Friday when he took to the track in the sprint shootout, pipping Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez to P1.
Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, his sprint pole defence lasted a few dozen metres on Saturday afternoon. Norris got a strong launch relative to Verstappen, but the RB19’s superior traction allowed the reigning world champion to dive down the inside into turn one.
Norris then lost a position to George Russell before quickly edging back past the Mercedes driver, but he couldn’t match the pace of Verstappen as attention turned to holding the gap back to Checo in P3.
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When the chequered flag waved Norris was eventually classified in P2, although this will offer little comfort for the McLaren driver who is still searching for his first F1 victory of any kind.
Speaking about his chances of fighting Red Bull again on Sunday, Norris explained: “I mean there was no-one around me apart from Max and he’s in a Red Bull.
“I know I’m not concerned. If anything I’m encouraged a lot by how good our pace was today. We’re not fighting, necessarily, Max [tomorrow]. I think we’re talking about competing against one of the best drivers in one of the best cars that’s ever been in Formula 1.
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“We’re not gonna suddenly be fighting a Red Bull in a track which we almost didn’t expect to be as good as it has been [for us]. So many good surprises and a lot of positives for us. Of course, tomorrow we’ll try again but [we’ll] have to do more overtaking.”
The signs aren’t looking good for Verstappen’s rivals ahead of Sunday’s race. Charles Leclerc will start alongside the Dutchman on the front row tomorrow, but Ferrari’s pace in the sprint was a cause for concern.
Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso have locked out the second row of the grid for the Grand Prix and while their pace was impressive on Saturday, they could prove a bottleneck for the likes of Norris and Perez coming through the field.
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