Max Verstappen fails to live up to Lando Norris’ expectations in Japan

Max Verstappen was only able to pull out a 19 second gap to Lando Norris in second place at the 2023 Japanese GP

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Lando Norris has expressed his shock at not being lapped three times by runaway race winner Max Verstappen in Sunday’s 2023 Japanese Grand Prix.

Norris, who started third, initially got alongside Verstappen at the start but had to yield the position and settled down to record his fourth second-place finish of 2023.

“I was expecting him to probably lap us two or three times, and he didn’t,” Norris told the press after the race. “I was expecting a bigger gap. I think we were as a team.

“It would have been a lot closer. I lost eight-ten seconds behind Perez under the VSC. So, I know how hard Max is pushing. I’m sure he could have gone a bit quicker if he wanted to. 

But to be only 19 seconds behind [him], he didn’t get a free pitstop, which was lovely. I think it’s just [a] sign of our progress. This is a track which suited our car very well. 

“I’ve been very comfortable since Friday to push and get in a good rhythm, and I think that’s probably one of the most important things here is to feel comfortable with the car.”

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris, as well as Max Verstappen of Red Bull at 2023 Japanese GP | McLaren F1 Team

Hails a great McLaren performance

Norris was joined on the podium by teammate Oscar Piastri, who secured his first Formula 1, ending McLaren’s two-year wait for a double podium. 

McLaren’s first double podium since their famous 1-2 in the 2021 Italian GP caps off a remarkable turnaround for the Woking-based team, who struggled for results at the start of 2023.

“[It was a] lot less stressful, especially [in] the last five-ten laps,” explained Norris. “But I [would] say better because we have two cars on the podium. So, from a team side, yes. I’m much happier. 

“Our first one since Monza a couple of years ago, but probably in a way almost deserved in terms of where they’re on pure pace. Nothing had to go our way we’re just where we deserve to be.

“An incredible day for everyone but also myself. Things went maybe not always to plan, but the pace was extremely strong, I could push, and where we deserve to be.

“So a good job by the whole team to execute a perfect race.”

Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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