Norris: Late dash was ‘like a race in qualifying’

Henry Valantine
Lando Norris, McLaren

Lando Norris at the race start in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2021

Lando Norris said being on low fuel and fresh tyres for the two-lap sprint to the finish in Baku was “like a race in qualifying”, in which he took P5.

The McLaren driver was one of the beneficiaries of the late red-flag period after Max Verstappen’s colossal tyre failure six laps from the end while leading the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

After Lewis Hamilton went straight on at Turn 1 on the restart in Baku, Norris was also able to jump AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda to take another top-five finish this season.

The young Briton said he enjoyed the madness of the last two laps.

“It was pretty intense,” Norris told Sky F1 after the race. “I think one of the nice things was you just have so much grip, low fuel, new rubber – it was like a race in qualifying really.

“It’s cool, it went our way and we gained two positions, which I guess is why I’m happy. It was just another opportunity for us to gain some more positions, which we did, so I’m thankful for that.”

Norris had been on something of a recovery drive throughout the race, having had one of the worst starts of anyone and dropping back three places at the beginning.

He worked his way back through the field step by step, but explained his troubles were a result of a slowdown in momentum of where he had placed his car at the race start.

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“My actual launch was okay but sometimes it’s difficult – once you commit yourself to a position in Turn 1, it can go right or it can go wrong,” he said.

“It can back up all of a sudden, people can lock up. There was a gap and I went for it, but then it backed up a lot in the middle and the guys on the inside and outside could get past.

“I’ve had good starts and good first laps all season, I’m not disappointed – it just hadn’t gone my way today. We’ll bounce back and hopefully have a better one next time.

“After the penalty yesterday, after a pretty bad first lap, to still end up P5 is pretty good for us.

“I’ve got to be happy with P5 and a good recovery from where we were.”

When former F1 race winner Johnny Herbert put it to Norris that his added maturity has helped his performances this season, the 21-year-old was able to elaborate on the other reasons behind his 2021 success.

“I think this consistency helps, for sure,” Norris explained. “I feel like I’m making better decisions when I need to be, I’m making fewer mistakes.

“I did almost put it in the wall at Turn 15, but forget it – nobody saw that! Apart from that, we are having good weekends.

“We are not really making any big mistakes, we are making the most of other people’s mistakes – which is the main thing at the end of the day.”

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