Wednesday, July 24, 2024

McLaren unsure Norris could have passed Verstappen to win F1 Imola GP

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Norris initially struggled to keep up with polesitter Verstappen in the first stint on medium tyres, but after the sole pitstop for hard tyres the Briton started closing the gap with Verstappen again.

Despite a tyre life disadvantage, Norris truly started reeling Verstappen in over the last 15 laps but just failed to get within DRS range heading into the final lap.

Norris ended up less than a second behind at the line as the Dutchman clinched his fifth win of the 2024 season, and felt he could have made a move with “one or two more laps”.

But his team boss wasn’t so sure as overtaking proved extremely difficult at Imola and “it is Max Verstappen” Norris was up against.

“Well, 63 laps is already many laps,” Stella told Sky Sports F1. “Many times you say you would like one lap more.

“It is what it is and also it is Max Verstappen, I am sure he was a bit in trouble but he managed to get the most out of what he had, so well done Max and well done to our two drivers, second and fourth.”

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, on the podium

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Stella called Norris “a bit of a master” at tyre management as he kept his hard tyres alive for a final surge towards Verstappen, having first feared that Norris would come under pressure from third-placed Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari instead.

“We actually lost too much time in the first stint behind Max, but we had too much rear degradation and we thought actually today was about watching the mirrors [more] than watching ahead of us,” he explained.

“After a period on the hard tyres in which we saved the tyres, while Leclerc and Oscar [Piastri] were fighting each other, I think this initial investment paid dividends towards the end of the race for Lando.

“Managing the budget of the tyres was an important factor and we have to say from this point of view Lando has become a bit of a master.

“Oscar paid for some issues we had yesterday in qualifying, otherwise he would’ve been on the podium as well. We take this positive and we look forward with some optimism now.”

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Norris says losing ground to Verstappen in the first stint on mediums is what ultimately cost him a better chance at a second consecutive win, two weeks on from taking his maiden victory in Miami.

“I fought hard right until the very last lap but just lost out a little bit too much to Max in the beginning,” said Norris. “He was much better in the first stint and obviously in the second stint we were stronger.

“It’s still a surprise to say it’s frustrating not to win. But after last weekend and the improvements we made, it’s what we should have started to expect.”

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