Lando Norris: ‘It’s about time someone put Max Verstappen under pressure’

Oliver Harden
Lando Norris and Max Verstappen during the podium celebrations at Imola

Lando Norris and Max Verstappen during the podium celebrations at Imola

McLaren driver Lando Norris says “it’s about time someone put Max Verstappen under pressure” after emerging as Red Bull’s biggest threat over recent weeks.

Max Verstappen stands as the dominant force of F1’s modern era, having won 49 of the last 73 races stretching back to the start of his maiden title-winning season in F1 2021.

Lando Norris not ruling out Max Verstappen F1 2024 title challenge

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

The Dutchman claimed his fifth victory of the first seven races of F1 2024 at last weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, withstanding late pressure from Lando Norris to take the chequered flag by 0.725 seconds.

That came after Norris secured his first F1 win at the previous race in Miami, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz denying Verstappen equalling his own record of 10 consecutive victories at the Australian Grand Prix in March.

After Red Bull won 21 of a possible 22 races in F1 2023, with 19 going to Verstappen, Norris reckons “it’s about time” the three-time World Champion started feeling the heat again with McLaren and Ferrari seemingly closing the gap.

Preview: 2024 Monaco Grand Prix

👉 Five big Monaco GP questions: the biggest qualifying battle in years and risk of rain?

👉 Uncovered: Ferrari’s major SF-24 upgrades that could power them to Monaco win

Reflecting on running Verstappen close at Imola, Norris told Sky Sports News: “I did everything I believed was right at the time.

“When it’s so close, you always think: ‘What really could I have done that little bit differently?’

“But you always could have done something a little bit better or a little bit differently. I’m sure Max could have reviewed things and said the same thing.

“But it was nice to know it wasn’t an easy one for him. It’s about time someone put him under pressure and he felt a bit of nerves again, because I’m sure he hasn’t felt it for a while.

“I don’t want to be overconfident – that’s never been me – but we want to come into races now and be confident in racing against Red Bull, racing against Ferrari, because we are in the mix with them.”

Despite being 60 points adrift of Verstappen ahead of this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, Norris is refusing to rule out a potential F1 2024 title challenge – admitting he no longer wants to downplay what McLaren can achieve after their upturn in form over recent races.

He said: “We’re a third of the way through so we have a very long way to go, so I think many, many things can happen.

“But also Monaco is a place where anything can happen, so I would never say ‘no’ anymore.

“I’ve got fed up of myself underestimating what we can achieve as a team.

“We’re positive, we’ve had a very good run of results – second, first, second – and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to continue that here in Monaco.

“It’s not known to be our best track but, at the same time anything can happen.”

Norris’s comments come after he claimed following the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix that the battle at the front is now so tight that the drivers can make the difference.

He told media including PlanetF1.com: “It depends on your driving, honestly. I think we’re all very close in qualifying.

“Maybe you would have put us a bit ahead of [Red Bull] on Saturday. Without Max’s slipstream [from Nico Hulkenberg], we would have been ahead.

“And without Oscar’s penalty [for impeding Kevin Magnussen in Q1], we would have had a one-two on the grid, so probably in qualifying we had the best car.

“In the race, I think it’s more down to driving than car. If you push a bit too much, you deg off; if you go too slow, you’re just too slow.

“It’s all about the driver judging it and driving to the correct limit. I don’t think you can just say this car was quicker, this car was slower.

“I think it’s tight enough and when you’re split by one-tenth in qualifying, you can’t really say: ‘This guy was way better than the other one.’

“Hopefully it continues like that because it’s exciting, it’s tough and gets you excited every weekend.”

Read next: Sergio Perez’s ‘lack of speed a problem’ as Red Bull fall from ‘luxurious position’