Lando Norris tears apart ‘bit stupid’ Max Verstappen Imola struggle theory

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen and Lando Norris talk in the Imola 2024 post-qualifying press conference.

Max Verstappen and Lando Norris talk.

Lando Norris believes anyone counting Max Verstappen and Red Bull out at Imola was “a bit stupid” after the Dutchman maintained his 100 per cent pole position record.

Verstappen looked to be heading for victory last time out at the Miami Grand Prix, which would have been a fifth win of the season for the championship leader, but Norris was able to spring a major surprise, benefitting from the timing of the Safety Car and pulling away from Verstappen upon the restart to make himself a Formula 1 race winner for the first time.

Lando Norris says doubting Max Verstappen ‘bit stupid’

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

With Norris having delivered that result in the heavily-upgraded McLaren, all eyes then shifted to Imola, where Red Bull has taken their first shot in the F1 2024 development war with their revised RB20. At first, the signs were not positive for Red Bull, Verstappen failing to feature in the top three through practice with “terrible” – as he put it – short and long run performance.

His fortunes made a complete U-turn for qualifying though, where Verstappen topped all three sessions to claim pole, even if McLaren were keeping him on his toes, both Oscar Piastri and Norris getting within a tenth of his pole lap.

And while Norris believes a “good race” could be on the horizon for McLaren at Imola, he bluntly said that anyone who had expected Verstappen to be down and out is “a bit stupid”.

Norris will move up to the front row for Sunday’s Grand Prix, after Piastri received a three-place grid penalty for impeding Kevin Magnussen in Q1.

Asked by media including about how confident he is of a Miami repeat considering Verstappen’s race pace concerns, Norris replied: “A tough one. I mean, it’s almost impossible to overtake here, especially when the gaps are so small.

“But yeah, you always try and take advantage of other people’s mistakes and struggles. As bad as it sounds, you try and take advantage of those times.

“I don’t know, Max hasn’t had the smoothest weekend, but I think if anyone doubted Red Bull or him coming back and doing a good job in qualifying, they’re a bit stupid.

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“So yeah, I think we expected them to kind of be back on track and annoying to miss out to him once again in qualifying, but we’re close and I think we’re happy as a team with how we’ve all performed, so if we can continue and have a strong race pace tomorrow, like we had yesterday and like we had in Miami, then I think we can all look forward to a good race.”

Verstappen will chase his third win in a row at Imola on Sunday.

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