Ralf Schumacher names the team that’s made Max Verstappen take ‘notice’

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen dominated the Brazilian Grand Prix, having led from the start. FIA

Max Verstappen leads the pack into the first corner at Interlagos.

Challenged by Lando Norris for the lead in Brazil, something that’s been almost unheard of this season, Ralf Schumacher reckons McLaren have made Max Verstappen take “notice”.

Verstappen started Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix from pole position with Norris sixth on the grid.

But with Charles Leclerc missing from the starting order after a hydraulic issue on the formation lap and Fernando Alonso pointing his Aston Martin sharply to the right, the seas parted for Norris giving him a clear run to Turn 1.

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And he took it, holding the inside line through Turn 1 to run second behind Verstappen.

His good start meant when the race was restarted after a red flag for Alex Albon and Kevin Magnussen’s lap 1 collision, Norris lined up second behind Verstappen.

He was the only driver who could stick with Verstappen on the restart and hounded the World Champion, even trying to take the lead on lap 8 as he put his front wheels in line with Verstappen’s rear heading into Turn 1 and forced the Red Bull driver to defend.

He again tried around the outside a few corners later but Verstappen again held firm.

Alas, it wasn’t long after that Verstappen broke out of DRS range of Norris and raced his way to the victory by eight seconds ahead of the McLaren driver.

It was, though, says Schumacher, a good sign for the future with McLaren closing the gap on Red Bull.

“It will take a while, but they have come closer,” the six-time Grand Prix winner told Sky Deutschland.

“Max Verstappen also noticed at the beginning and was a bit more reserved. At one point it looked close, and he didn’t do that voluntarily.

“They’re there – but Piastri still has to improve in the races.”

Norris finished the Grand Prix second while his teammate Oscar Piastri wasn’t able to score after his McLaren was damaged in the opening lap collision, putting him a lap down at the restart.

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Verstappen admits Norris kept him honest in Brazil

Although Verstappen led every lap barring a few when he made his second pit stop three laps before Norris’, the Dutchman says it wasn’t an easy win as the McLaren driver kept him honest.

“Maybe it looks fully easy from the outside, but I think for most of every stint, Lando was matching my lap times. It was always like the last five to ten laps when it seemed like then, of course, we had better tyre deg,” he said.

“But yeah, the beginning of every stint, I definitely had to focus a lot and I couldn’t afford to make mistakes.”

Asked specifically about his lap 8 battle with the Briton, he replied: “He suddenly closed a lot. I didn’t expect him to have a run into Turn 1, but yeah, I had to use my battery a bit. And for one lap, into 1, into 4, I had to defend. And then I had to, of course, try and maintain that gap.”

As for Norris, he said: “Max always seemed to have an answer to everything, which is a shame. But fair play to him, he drove a good race, so yeah, tough, with the wind conditions and everything but P2 is a good result.”

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