Norris ‘screwed’ by early lap incidents in Japan
Coming home outside the points at a race when your team mate finishes fifth is never the desired result. But Lando Norris’ Japanese Grand Prix had started to unravel very early on, when he was caught up in a first lap incident after an electric getaway off the line...
Norris started the Japanese Grand Prix in eighth, one place behind team mate Carlos Sainz. A fantastic start saw him overtake the Red Bull of Alex Albon, Sainz and even Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes – but up ahead, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen were slewing over the track, having just made contact.
Following closely behind, Norris unluckily managed to pick up debris from that incident in his brake duct, leading to overheating which forced an early pit stop – “otherwise it was going to catch on fire.” But he then lost further time when he came under pressure from Albon after McLaren had called him into the pits, with the two drivers tussling at Suzuka’s Casino Triangle chicane.
The Albon incident kind of screwed me because I had to slow down even more, to come into the pits
“I thought he was too far and he must have made a pretty big move,” Norris said after the race. “I started to go a bit wide and lock up because of my brakes overheating, which meant [Albon] kind of went for it a bit more. But it was fair play to him.”
The two avoided a full collision, but carbon fibre flew as they went side by side into the chicane, and Norris was forced to cut across the run off area. “It kind of screwed me because I had to slow down even more, to come into the pits,” said Norris, although he fairly admitted that the Thai driver was “the quicker car at the time so he probably would have passed me sooner or later.”
That early pit stop on Lap 5 dropped the Englishman down to last, from where he could only recover to finish 13th. “I did my best to come back through but it wasn’t enough,” he admitted afterwards. “I didn’t have a big enough delta to catch everyone back, make some moves and make the most of a different strategy.”
Japan marked the end of a three-race points scoring streak for the rookie. And while his hopes of catching up with his team mate’s tally in the drivers’ standings look forlorn – Sainz having more than double Norris’ 36 points – the good news is that the MCL34 is clearly capable of high finishes, as shown by the Spaniard coming home in fifth place for the third time this season.
Drivers' standings after Suzuka
|1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes||338|
|2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes||274|
|3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari||221|
|4 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing||212|
|5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari||212|
|6 Carlos Sainz McLaren||76|
|7 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso||73|
|8 Alexander Albon Red Bull Racing||64|
|9 Daniel Ricciardo Renault||42|
|10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault||35|
|11 Sergio Perez Racing Point||35|
|12 Lando Norris McLaren||35|
|13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso||33|
|14 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing||31|
|15 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team||20|
|16 Lance Stroll Racing Point||19|
|17 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team||8|
|18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing||4|
|19 Robert Kubica Williams||1|
|20 George Russell Williams|