He was the standout performer in qualifying in Australia, but F1 rookie Lando Norris feels he then let his McLaren team down on his first race start in their colours.
The 19-year-old qualified an impressive eighth on the grid for his Grand Prix debut, opening up the possibility of points in Melbourne. But after dropping to tenth in the opening stint, Norris then got stuck behind Antonio Giovinazzi’s ailing Alfa Romeo following his first pit stop, allowing other drivers to jump him through strategy and leave the 2018 Formula 2 runner-up 12th at the finish.
Asked afterwards how proud of his first Formula 1 race he was, Norris replied: “Of myself? Not that much. Of the team, I’m pretty proud.
“I think I had a pretty good car. Not perfect, but overall it had enough pace in it to be in the top 10. I just made a couple of mistakes that put me outside of it. That’s why I’m not as happy as I was (after qualifying). Just nice to get my first race out of the way. I was quite nervous going in, but after finishing, I’m reasonably happy.
“A bit mixed [emotions]. Very cool to finish my first race and get everything out of the way, just have the full experience of a Formula 1 race weekend. At the same time, disappointed with how I performed. The car had pretty good pace. I made a couple of mistakes, one lock up and one at the start, so I dropped a bit further down than what I would have liked. Overall there was just more potential, and that’s why I’m not so happy.”
AUSTRALIAN GP: Norris wins battle with Giovinazzi
Giovinazzi had a damaged car and was holding up a number of drivers during the first stint, with Norris eventually passing down the inside into Turn 3 after seven laps stuck behind Alfa Romeo, and he admits it proved costly.
“Finally, it was about time. It was too late. It cost me the positions on [Daniil] Kvyat and [Lance] Stroll, which obviously put me out of the points in the end. I’m a bit annoyed because there was a lot more potential. The car had the pace to be in the top 10, and basically I let everyone down. So I need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Prior to the race weekend, Norris admitted he was keen to get his first Grand Prix out of the way, and he says there are only small items he feels he needs to focus on to deliver an improved performance at the next race in Bahrain.
“Work on the things I went wrong with. So the start, my initial start was OK, and then I just got a bit too keen and got wheelspin, and the lock-up, I think it’s just over-pushing a bit too much. But apart from that, there wasn’t a lot. Small things here and there. It’s just working on the mistakes, working on my weak areas, the team’s weak areas, and just trying to improve.”
Prior to the weekend, Norris had never raced at Albert Park before. The same cannot be said of the next track on the calendar Bahrain. In fact, Norris won the opening race of the Formula 2 championship there last year. A good omen? He'll be hoping so.