Lando Norris outlines championship ‘possibilities’ despite ‘no weakness’ Max Verstappen admission

Thomas Maher
Lando Norris, McLaren, 2024 Spanish Grand Prix.

Lando Norris believes there are more 'chances and possibilities' in this year's championship.

Lando Norris reckons the closeness of the pack at the front of F1 in 2024 could lead to much bigger points swings, even if Max Verstappen has no real weaknesses.

The McLaren driver has run Max Verstappen very close in recent races, having won his maiden Grand Prix in Miami before shadowing the Red Bull driver across the line at Imola. A suboptimal strategy call in Montreal cost Norris a chance at victory in Montreal, but the British driver is hopeful of being able to put Verstappen under pressure for the title.

Lando Norris: 2024 represents higher chances for Max Verstappen’s pursuers

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper.

With Red Bull not enjoying the same level of dominance in 2024 as they managed with the RB19 last year, Verstappen has had more tricky weekends in the first third of this year than through the entirety of last year.

Technical issues in Australia forced his retirement, while Red Bull never appeared comfortable in Monaco – leading to a subdued sixth place for the Dutch driver before an operationally sharp performance from Red Bull rescued their Montreal race as Norris romped into the distance after overtaking Verstappen.

The pack is now quite close, with George Russell taking pole position in Montreal with an identical lap time to Verstappen as Mercedes joined in the action at the front.

Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, and McLaren all now appear to be roughly on the same pace, with Red Bull perhaps still having a slight advantage at tracks that play to the RB20’s strengths, and Norris believes this closeness will lead to larger points swings that could make for a closer championship fight.

“I think it’s tough,” he told media, including, in Barcelona when asked about whether Verstappen is an achievable target this year.

“But there are probably more chances and possibilities now, especially if Mercedes are in the fight – more chance to have a bigger swing of points, rather than [when] a bad weekend for Max was third before or something, it could be that it’s a fifth or a sixth.

“If you can be that one guy that wins, within one weekend you can turn quite a bit of points around fairly quickly. So, if it goes like that, then I’ll say there’s a higher chance.”

But Norris, who is close friends with the Dutch driver, said a championship tilt would still require near-perfection from any adversary as Verstappen has no discernible weaknesses with which a rival can try to capitalise on.

“I think with Max, it’s always going to like his bad weekend is never going to be a bad weekend, it’s still going to be a good amount of points,” Norris said.

“He’s just strong in all areas. It’s rare that he makes mistakes, it’s rare that he messes up qualifying, that kind of thing.

“But, with a bit more pressure now, you never know how that changes, and always, with pressure, it’s always easier to make mistakes. So we’ll see.

“I think it’s tough because you can’t doubt Max in any area, he doesn’t have a weakness outright.

“It’s possible but it’s gonna need a very good car performance, a very consistent performance throughout the whole season.

“As you’ve seen, they’ve been a little bit more maybe up and down than what we have. So we just need to capitalise on when they’re down and try and be the one car that’s at the front and on the up.”

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Lando Norris: McLaren doesn’t need a lot to rival Red Bull

With McLaren making huge strides in performance on track over the last 12 months, the slight operational deficit that has seen Red Bull continue to usually come out on top is also a gap that’s closing.

With that sharpness from the Milton Keynes-based squad coming into focus once again in Montreal, Norris said his team needs very little to be able to overcome that slight gap.

“It’s not a huge amount, it’s small things – it’s just like split seconds of decision-making and understanding,” he said.

“Montreal was mostly a fairly… although it was quite simple, it was also a fairly difficult decision with what the weather was doing and changing – so it wasn’t as simple as just saying at the time we’ve easily made the wrong decision.

“There are things we definitely could have and should have done better and we should have boxed, all of those things.

“It’s not just as easy as saying that though, because there are other factors that led us to want to stay out and not necessarily box at the time.

“Like the weather, [we] initially expected to be very bad coming in and [we] actually got less and less and less rain.

“So if there was that little bit less, we easily could have stayed out like some drivers did and it turned out to be a good thing to do. So, again, it wasn’t like we made the wrong decision. It was just the positioning we’re in and certain other variables made it look worse against some of these other guys.

“But, still, we weren’t prepared as what we should have been. We should have boxed, there was no harm. Even if he didn’t box, I still would have come out easily in the lead.

“So that was like a no-loss or risk-free pitstop that I could have had. But the fact I had like two seconds, and the team had two seconds to decide at the time whether it was going to rain or not enough to stay out, it’s a complicated decision.

“So I really don’t think it’s a lot. There’s a lot of stuff we do better than other teams, better than Red Bull, better than Mercedes, better than all the other teams.

“So it’s just certain times, in certain situations, some are going to show our weaknesses and things that we should have done better.

“But, at the same time, I think other teams have made mistakes, and we’ve done a better job than other teams in certain areas too.”

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