Fighting with Red Bull and Ferrari getting business as usual, says Norris

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Emilia Romagna, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrariit

Having clinched his first F1 victory at the Miami Grand Prix, Lando Norris was once again Max Verstappen’s closest challenger in today’s Imola F1 round.

Norris looked extremely quick in qualifying, but he missed pole position by less than a tenth of a second. With his team-mate Oscar Piastri receiving a grid penalty for impeding Kevin Magnussen in the first part of qualifying, he was promoted to P2 on the grid.

Despite a good launch off the line, he was unable to keep up with race leader Max Verstappen in the opening stint on Pirelli’s mediums, but he displayed eye-catching speed in his second stint on hards. The Bristol-born was able to close a gap of almost seven seconds to just seven tenths of a second in the final stages of the 63-lap Imola race, putting Verstappen under enormous pressure.

“Another great weekend for the team. I fought hard right until the very last lap but we just lost out a little bit too much to Max in the beginning. One or two more laps and it would have been beautiful – but just wasn’t meant to be today.

“We’ve been competitive all weekend and I think we’re at the point where we’re able to fight Ferrari and Red Bull consistently. We must get used to that – the team is doing a very good job so it’s great that fighting at the front is now business-as-usual.

"We just need to keep focused on improving. It’s still a surprise to say it’s frustrating to not win, but after last weekend and the improvements we made, it’s what we should start to expect," commented Norris.

His team-mate Oscar Piastri put in a brilliant effort in qualifying to secure P2 on the grid, but a lack of communication meant that he impeded Kevin Magnussen in the first part of qualifying.

The Australian was handed a three-place grid penalty for the incident, and started only from P5. Although he was able to overtake Carlos Sainz with an undercut strategy, he was unable to challenge Charles Leclerc for the last spot on the podium.

“P4, a good day and I think that’s the most we could have done. I just got stuck behind Sainz for the first stint but the team made a great strategy call and we managed to overtake by pitting.

"This weekend proves how far the team have come and we’re confident we can keep taking the fight to the front. However today, track position was so important, so I am happy with our work.”

Mclaren left the Imola round with the biggest point haul of any teams, meaning that they slightly closed in on the field-leading Red Bull and Ferrari.

Expanding on McLaren’s brilliant performance at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, team boss Andrea Stella added: “A positive day at Imola and the first time in 2024 McLaren have emerged as the highest-scoring team.

"P4 for Oscar came from good strategy and good pace, allowing him to gain a place on a day when it was not easy to. P2 for Lando was a very strong result. It was a surprise to be in contention for the victory at the end of the race.

"It came about as a consequence of how sensitive the tyres were today. In the first stint, Max did a better job of managing the Medium and after the stops, Lando did a very good job of managing the Hard, resisting the temptation to overdo it when Leclerc was catching up. It paid off at the end with strong pace and being in the hunt for the victory.

“Everyone at McLaren has worked very hard to make these results possible, and they have my thanks for the upgrades that have arrived over the last few weeks, but also for the commitment, the hard work, and the quality of that work. We need to keep improving the car. If we can do that, we’re going to be in a good position for the future,” Stella concluded.