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Lando Norris mystified at McLaren 2024 Chinese GP pace

Norris finished second in Shanghai, 10 seconds ahead of Charles Leclerc’s fourth-placed Ferrari

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If Max Verstappen didn’t exist, Lando Norris would be a Formula 1 race winner after he finished second at the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, but he was completely shocked at the pace of the McLaren car and neither he nor his team are aware of they found the speed.

Norris’s weekend looked to be falling apart in real time during the Sprint Race after a lap one mistake dropped him down the order to seventh, just ahead of his teammate, where he remained after failing to make any kind of impression at all despite taking pole in the wet.

But in the Chinese Grand Prix itself, his papaya-coloured car began to behave like the podium-contending car it was regularly been since July 2023 as he picked off Fernando Alonso for third after seven laps, before he managed to hang onto the two Red Bull’s quite well.

Then came a safety car that saw Red Bull stop Sergio Perez, allowing Norris to inherit the place which he expertly managed to do throughout the remainder of the race as he hung onto his tyres. That’s despite a clear car disadvantage as Verstappen lapped 0.250 faster on average, leaving Norris feeling confused about the speed.

Lando Norris during 2024 Chinese GP | Aston Martin McLaren
Lando Norris during 2024 Chinese GP | Aston Martin McLaren

“Just much better today,” Norris said to media after the race. “Things came alive today. The conditions cooled down, the wind calmed down and both of these things played into our hands a little bit more.

“That’s why yesterday if you asked me, ‘What do we expect for today,’ it definitely was nowhere near top three or even maybe top five, so a pleasant surprise and the car felt much better, but obviously not quick enough to match the Red Bulls.”

Control is how he beat Perez

Verstappen’s Sprint Race highlighted the incredible difference that dirty air and clean air makes to an F1 car as he blasted off into the distance when he finally passed Lewis Hamilton, despite the Mercedes and Aston Martin of Alonso holding him up for a significant amount of time in the early stages.

And that effect is what Norris believes allowed him to beat Perez to the punch to finish second, adding that as he was in clean air he could manage and control his own race and tempo whilst Perez had to work harder to get within striking distance.

“I think it’s a track where when you’re in control and you can manage things it can really be in your favour,” Norris added to the media. “And I think that’s where the race was so different for us compared to yesterday.

“Behind the whole pack, you overheat your tyres, you can’t do anything. You just struggle. There’s not a lot you can do, and today I could control things on my own. I could break away from Charles [Leclerc] very quickly and then Charles was holding up Checo [Perez] a lot.

“Checo probably used a lot of his tyres to try and get past him. I probably maybe expected a bit more of a battle but then when I know how much he pushed in the beginning to pass the Ferrari, it allowed me to be a bit more comfortable which was nice.”

Brandon Sutton
Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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