Lando Norris delivers brutal McLaren assessment after ‘painful’ Spa race

Jamie Woodhouse
Lando Norris serious look as he side eyes. Bahrain February 2023

Lando Norris has been linked to Red Bull and Mercedes.

Lando Norris says McLaren “got it wrong” with their high-downforce approach for the Belgian Grand Prix and paid the price.

With heavy rain having impacted the Friday and Saturday action, McLaren went with a higher-downforce setup for race day in anticipation that the rain may return.

The race would feature one rain shower, during which the MCL60 did improve, though it was a far lighter and shorter cloud burst than seen in recent days with drivers able to race through it without the need to move away from dry tyres.

“Painful” experience for Lando Norris and McLaren

While Norris was able to secure P7, hanging on after his mid-race stop for soft tyres turned into an ultra-successful undercut, it was nonetheless a race which did not feel particularly enjoyable for the Brit who had scored P2 finishes in the British and Hungarian GPs prior to the visit to Spa.

“I just barely was making eighth gear we were that slow on the straights,” Norris revealed to Sky F1. “I just couldn’t defend, I couldn’t attack.

“It was impossible to overtake, I didn’t overtake one person on the straight today, we were too slow, I think only overtook like two or three people today and that was all in the corners, it was painful.

“Everyone was overtaking me before the DRS activation zone, I had a run on Alex [Albon] out of Turn 1, I was coming at him out of Turn 1, I had new tyres he had old tyres, and I think by the end of the straight he pulled three or four car lengths on me, and this was me with DRS using overtake.

“Beginning was so painful. But we tried then to go onto the hard, got done over again just because it wasn’t a good enough tyre.

“So we had one thing left to try and that was put a soft tyre on and this was already on like Lap 24 or something, 25, so I was expecting to box again for another soft at some point, but we were somehow in seventh, we undercut like 10 cars I think, which I was pretty surprised about, but a good surprise of course.

“But I thought I was going to be boxing again, and then I was like ‘okay, we’re going to try go to the end’ and I pushed the tyres so much in the beginning, I thought my race was going to be pretty much over again and I was going to start to struggle too much, but we kept the tyres alive and so managed to finish P7, stay ahead of Esteban [Ocon], who was closing quite quickly the last couple of laps.”

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McLaren were trying their best in-race to help Norris with in-car changes to turn the tide, and at one point it was claimed that steering issues had been hampering the Brit in the earlier stages of the Belgian GP.

He denied that claim though, stressing that the issue was simply a lack of pace.

Asked if he had a steering issue, Norris replied: “No. We were just that slow.

“We got it wrong. I think we’ve admitted it already. We got it wrong.

“We were way too high on downforce and it didn’t help us out in pretty much any way. So we’ll review it and make sure we do a better job next time.”

Formula 1 now heads into its summer break before returning for the Dutch Grand Prix in late August.

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