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Norris concedes ‘Ferraris on another level’ as Piastri rues ‘not his best’ weekend in Japan

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Lando Norris conceded the Ferraris were on "another level" compared to McLaren after he finished fifth at the Japanese Grand Prix, despite starting P3 on the grid.

The race had started well for the McLaren man, an early first pit stop helping him to undercut Sergio Perez with a podium very much on the cards. But he was powerless to stop the charge of the Ferraris, with Charles Leclerc jumping him on strategy and Carlos Sainz doing likewise on pure pace.

READ MORE: Sainz thrilled with third place in Japan after making multiple overtakes during ‘tough’ race

“Never had the pace today, was tough, just trying to cover a lot of things, trying to stay ahead but on a track like this it’s the opposite of what you want to do,” he admitted afterwards.

2024 Japanese Grand Prix: Norris overtakes Hamilton on the outside at Turn 1

“So, I think it was a good day, doesn’t look nice starting third finishing fifth, shouldn’t be happy with it, but we didn’t have any more pace today. Clearly the Ferraris were another level to us, did what we could but it wasn’t enough.

“[It was] tough, the car felt pretty tricky today especially with the hotter conditions. As soon as it cooled down, the pace came back to us a little bit but in the hotter conditions at the start and in the middle, we were way too far off. So, a little bit as expected, we hoped for a little bit more but that’s what we had.”

READ MORE: Ricciardo and Albon give their views on first-lap clash at Suzuka as stewards opt against further action

Fifth for Norris was complimented by eighth for Oscar Piastri, who also slid back two places from his starting grid slot. The Australian had a harder afternoon in some ways, in the thick of the action as he tried to balance attacking Fernando Alonso ahead with defending from a fresher-shod George Russell behind.

With Alonso wise to the threat of Russell, he was helping Piastri by ensuring the McLaren man had DRS with which to defend. At one point, Russell tried to barge his way past the McLaren into the final chicane with Piastri forced to cut the apex and go off track, the two banging wheels and Piastri emerging ahead.

Japanese GP ‘not the afternoon we were looking for’ admits Piastri

But a small mistake on Turn 16 of Lap 51 cost Piastri a tenth, allowing Russell to close up and breeze past into Turn 1 on the penultimate lap.

“I mean it was pretty hard racing of course, a bit of wheel banging as well and yeah, in the end he got in front of me so tried my best but yeah, anyway,” was his slightly frustrated take.

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from the Japanese Grand Prix as Verstappen wins following early red flag

“Obviously not fighting for the positions we wanted to be in but just struggled I think. On my side it’s not been the best of weekends, as a team we struggled a bit more than we expected to as well.

“A lot of reflection and things to try and get on top of for next time but yeah that was not the afternoon we were looking for.”

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HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from final practice at Imola as Piastri sets the pace while Alonso and Perez crash