‘I was just praying for one more lap’ at Imola – Norris

Lando Norris says he was “praying for one more lap” late in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as he closed in on Max Verstappen but ran out of time to win the race.

Verstappen had build up a lead of over 7s in the first part of the race but in the latter stages Norris started to reduce that gap and was able to lap more than half a second quicker than the Red Bull. Norris was outside of DRS range starting the final lap and crossed the line 0.7s behind Verstappen, and believes he’d have won if he’d got that close one lap earlier.

“I was just praying for one more lap,” Norris said. “I was just praying for someone to say one more lap. I don’t know why. I just did everything I could. I was pushing like hell to get there and catch up and have a chance. But as soon as you get within 2s, you start to lose downforce and grip. The tires start to overheat again…


“I kind of struggled for a couple laps, but once I understood how I had to drive again — like the last lap I managed to get there, and [get to] seven tenths — like one more lap. At least he would have had to defend into Turn 1, and maybe something could have come from that, but one lap too late. It’s a shame, but it is what it is, and we just struggled too much in the beginning of the race.”

With McLaren particularly quick during Friday practice when the temperatures were cooler than Saturday and Sunday, Norris admits he would have set his car up differently had he known it would be warmer for the race.

“I would probably take out like four holes of front wing and do the same again. Once the tires are where they are, you can’t actually do a lot. We were expecting it to be a little bit colder today than what it was, so we kind of set up the car more for colder conditions rather than hot. I think I paid the price in general.

“That’s why I had to do so much of an introduction to the tires and kind of bring them up so gently and look after them. Because if I didn’t, I just would have fallen off a cliff like the others did. My only chance was to drive my race, and that meant being under pressure from Charles for more laps than I would have liked.

“As soon as I cleared the traffic and got back into my own rhythm, then I felt good with the car. The tires kind of came back to me and I could push and I was happy. From then on, the pace was amazing, and [that’s] a good sign.

“It’s always a good thing to have good race pace, but clearly when it’s hotter and there’s more degradation to the rear tires, we start to struggle a lot more. This is something we know. Maybe we could have prepared for a little bit more, but nevertheless, I’m happy with the outcome.”

Norris says McLaren is starting to get comfortable with its place at the front of the field, believing the team will be able to target victory at the majority of venues since upgrading its car.

“I think we’re at a point now where we can happily say we’re in the position of Ferrari and Red Bull,” he said. “It’s what we have to get used to. The team [is] 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 that it’s frustrating not to win, but after last weekend and the improvements we made, it’s what we should start to expect.”

Story originally appeared on Racer