Max Verstappen caught by surprise by ‘unexpected’ Lando Norris attack

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen and Lando Norris fighting at Interlagos during the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen and Lando Norris fighting at Interlagos during the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen admitted he was caught on the hop by Lando Norris as the McLaren driver launched an attack early on in Brazil.

Early in the Brazilian Grand Prix, following the restart after a red flag stoppage, Lando Norris lined up Max Verstappen for an overtake attempt into Turn 1 – forcing the reigning World Champion to go defensive all the way down into Turn 4 as the McLaren driver kept up a sustained attack.

It was the one solid overtaking attempt Norris had on the Red Bull, with Verstappen then settling into a solid lead as the race progressed – one that saw him come home almost nine second clear of Norris at the chequered flag.

Max Verstappen talks through Lando Norris attack

Opening up on how Norris had suddenly appeared on his gearbox as the duo started Lap 8, Max Verstappen told media how he had had to keep a close eye on Norris throughout the race as the McLaren’s pace proved enough to be a threat.

“He suddenly closed a lot – I didn’t expect him to have a run into Turn 1!” he said.

“But yeah, I had to use my battery a bit for one lap, into [Turn] 1 and [Turn] 4 to defend and then I had to, of course, try and maintain that gap.

“But I think what also was very important at that stage of the stint was to really look after the tyres to make sure that you have a good lap to pit.”

It was only the Red Bull’s better long-stint tyre degradation that helped him open the gap to the McLaren, according to Verstappen.

“Maybe it looked fairly easy from the outside but I think for most of every stint, Lando was matching my lap times,” he said.

“It was always like the last five to 10 laps where it seemed like we had better tyre deg. But yeah, at the beginning of every stint, I definitely had to focus a lot and couldn’t afford to make mistakes and, around here with the high deg as well, it’s not the easiest to drive.

“It’s not like you can just relax and let the car just roll into the corners without any consequence, you have to be really on it. Everything we did today also strategy-wise, pitstops were good, so very happy about that.” recommends

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Lando Norris: If I only had one opportunity, I was going to take it

Asked whether his overtaking attempt on Verstappen had genuinely been on, the McLaren driver explained how he had thrown everything at the Dutch driver in a bid to snatch the lead.

“Was it on? I mean… I tried,” he said.

“We struggled too much in Turn 10, Turn 12, it’s where the Red Bull is extremely competitive and where we struggled all weekend apart from when we were on new tyres.

“On that restart, I used my new tyres and Max didn’t so I thought, if I was gonna have one opportunity, it was going to be there and then. So I used all my battery and DRS and then you do start catching them very quickly.

“I had a good line in Turns 1 and 2, but Max also had a lot of grip. If it was maybe later on in the stint, his line would have been a lot more compromised and a bigger penalty, but because the tyres were so fresh and provided a lot of grip, he got a good enough exit that I only got alongside him just before the braking zone for Turn 4.

“I tried. I would have got past him if I could and I wanted to, but just a couple more metres… it would have been lovely!”

Norris said that a second overtaking possibility could have been on, but said he was more wary of the proximity of Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin after showing good pace through the Sprint.

“I didn’t want to compromise my own race by having one more attempt,” he said.

“At the same time, I was low on battery and those types of things. And if you have tyres that you take too much too early, youcan pay the price quite heavily.

“So I tried, it wasn’t worth a second attempt – as much as I would have loved to and, potentially, could have done. It just wasn’t worth the risk and potential consequence of then being in the hands of Fernando and the people behind. It was good fun.

“If it was a little bit more space or if I was literally a couple metres further down, things could have been a little bit different but, at the same time, to then try to keep Max behind for the rest of the race would have been a whole new challenge.

“So it’s good that we’re getting there. I had an attempt, I think that’s one of my first attempts at really trying to raise past him, ever in my career in F1, which is a good thing, but yeah, that last little thing needs to click and then we can do it more often.”

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