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Norris Praying for One More Lap at Imola

Norris: “Praying for One More Lap” at Imola

20/05/2024

Lando Norris narrowly missed his second F1 win at Imola, finishing close behind Max Verstappen, wishing for just one more lap to capitalize on his strong pace.

Starting on the front row of the Imola Grand Prix alongside Max Verstappen, Lando Norris finished right behind the Red Bull driver, narrowly missing out on his second Formula 1 victory. The McLaren driver admitted he wished the race had lasted a bit longer, given his strong pace.

“I was praying for one more lap. I was just praying someone would say, ‘one more lap.’ But yes, I mean, I did everything I could. I was pushing like crazy to catch up and have a chance. But as soon as you get within two seconds, you start losing downforce and grip. The tires begin to overheat. I struggled for a few laps, but once I figured out how to drive again, like in the last lap, I managed to close the gap. Just one more lap, and at least he would have had to defend in Turn 1, and maybe something could have happened. It’s a shame, but that’s how it is, and we struggled too much at the start of the race.”

The British driver also mentioned that his car’s setup might not have been optimal.

“As Max said, once the tires are where they are, there’s not much you can do. We expected it to be a bit cooler, but it wasn’t. So, we set up the car more for cool conditions than hot ones. And I think I paid the price for that overall. That’s why I had to do so many tire management laps, gently preparing them and taking care of them. If I hadn’t, I would have dropped off like the others. My only chance was to run my race. And for that, I had to endure Charles’ pressure for more laps than I would have liked.”

“But once I got clear of traffic and found my own rhythm, I felt good with the car. The tires came back, I could push, and I was happy. From that moment, the pace was incredible. So, it’s a good sign. It’s always good to have strong race pace. But it’s clear that when it’s hotter, and the rear tires degrade more, we start to struggle. That’s something we know. And maybe we could have prepared a bit more for that. Nonetheless, I’m satisfied with the result.”

Struggles with hard tires before taking off

While Norris threatened Verstappen in the final laps, he initially saw Charles Leclerc catching up to him quickly before ultimately pulling away from the Ferrari. According to Norris, the reason lies in the hard tire window brought by Pirelli to Imola.

“As soon as I switched to the hard tire, I didn’t feel very good. And I was slow on the Medium compared to Max. I wasn’t comfortable as soon as I moved to the hard tire. So, I quickly asked where I was struggling. They replied, ‘Oh, they’re just pushing more than you.’ But I was asking because I felt slow and didn’t feel like I could push much more. As soon as I started pushing, I felt oversteer, understeer, and tire locking. The tires just weren’t in a good window. And I think it’s clear, you know, with Max saying the same thing, that as soon as they’re not in the right window, you can’t push. You don’t have confidence in the car. So, I had to manage things as best as I could. And when I say I’m pushing, it doesn’t mean you’re at 110%.”

“You’re just pushing to the limit of what you can do. But I essentially changed all my switches on the wheel to try to help the rear tires and try to kill the front tires, because I simply had too much front grip at that moment. And maybe five or ten laps later, things started to go in the right direction. By making all those changes, adjusting the differential, brake balance, and all that, I managed to bring the tires into a good window. As soon as I got there, I felt confident enough to push. And as soon as I felt I could push, everything started going in the right direction.”

“It’s more of a coincidence, whether it’s timing or something else. But when Charles was behind me, I didn’t have much more to give. And if I did, I would probably have made a mistake and gone off track. So yes, it was tricky. But as soon as Charles made a mistake, it allowed me to breathe a bit. I thought, ‘OK, maybe now I can try to push a bit more.’ And it started coming back.”

“It’s difficult. It’s so tricky on this kind of circuit. You have a few laps where you don’t oversteer, and things get better, but then you oversteer, and things get worse, so you can feel highs and lows very quickly. It’s so sensitive with the tires and such. I think we have a good understanding of the situation; we just probably didn’t do the best job possible, especially in the first half of the race.”

“It’s more about driving than the car.”

During the weekend, Norris believed that McLaren F1 would be the third force at Imola behind Red Bull and Ferrari, and even though he outpaced Leclerc and Sainz and put pressure on Verstappen, he thinks the hierarchy is more open than ever.

“It’s tight. It depends on your driving. Honestly, I think we’re all very close. In qualifying, you might have placed us a bit ahead of Ferrari. You know, without Max’s tow, we would have been ahead. And without Oscar’s penalty, we would have had two cars at the front of the grid. It’s more about driving than the car. You know, I think if you push a bit too much, you degrade. If you go too slowly, you’re… too slow. It all depends on the driver’s judgment and ability to drive at the right limit.”

“I don’t think you can say this car was faster or slower on Sunday. I think it’s close enough. And when you’re separated by a tenth in qualifying, you can’t really say this guy was much better than the other, you know. I hope it continues like this because it’s exciting, it’s challenging, and it’s… Yes, it’s exciting every weekend, so I’m looking forward to the next ones.”

Norris: “Praying for One More Lap” at Imola. Norris: “Praying for One More Lap” at Imola. F1 2024 Norris: “Praying for One More Lap” at Imola

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