‘If you want, do a Senna!’ – Lando Norris urges Oscar Piastri ahead of Suzuka start

Oliver Harden
McLaren drivers Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris in conversation after 2023 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying.

McLaren drivers Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris in conversation.

Lando Norris joked that team-mate Oscar Piastri should take Max Verstappen out Ayrton Senna-style to aid McLaren’s chances of winning the Japanese Grand Prix.

Piastri and Norris will start Sunday’s race from second and third on the grid respectively after Verstappen bounced back from a disappointing Singapore GP to claim his ninth pole position of the F1 2023 season at Suzuka.

The Japanese GP venue has staged some of the most dramatic moments in F1 history, most memorably the clashes between Senna and Alain Prost in consecutive years in 1988 and 1989.

Oscar Piastri outqualifies Lando Norris at Suzuka

After a collision between the pair at the final chicane helped secure Prost the title in 1988, Senna secured his second of three World Championships by intentionally hitting Prost’s Ferrari at the start in 1989.

With Verstappen looking imperious in Japan, the Red Bull driver topping all three practice sessions before setting pole by 0.626 seconds, Norris remarked that nefarious means may be required to help McLaren’s victory hopes.

Asked in the post-qualifying press conference if McLaren can do anything to stop Verstappen on Sunday, Norris said: “We’re going to try. I mean, if he’s leading by Turn 2 there’s not a lot you can really do.

Addressing rookie team-mate Piastri, he said: “If you want to emulate Senna, Oscar, into Turn 1 you can do that happily – can be lovely for me!

“So I think I we’ll try. I think our race pace is decent – it’s definitely not going to be as good as the Red Bull – but we’ll do our best.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

The man that brought Oscar Piastri to Europe: ‘From his first test, you could tell he was just fast’

Train like an F1 driver: An eye-opening experience into the insane fitness levels

Both McLarens will start directly behind Verstappen for the first time since July’s British GP at Silverstone, where Norris snatched the lead at Turn 1 and led the opening laps, ultimately securing the team’s first podium finish of 2023.

With tyre degradation high and strategy set to be key at an unseasonably hot Suzuka, Piastri is hopeful that McLaren will have opportunities to take the fight to Verstappen.

“We’ll try,” he added. “We tried our best at Silverstone, so we’ll try and do the same thing but obviously it’s going to be difficult.

“I think it’s going to be a very difficult race tomorrow as well, very different to Silverstone in that regard, so it could be a lot more open, I think.”

Read next: Max Verstappen tells Singapore doubters to ‘go suck on an egg’ with Japan pole