With all the odds against him, Lando Norris bagged himself a handful of points today in the Austrian Grand Prix, finishing ahead of his teammate, Daniel Riccardo, while the universe seemed to throw all it could at him.
Norris, throwing down the gauntlet, made up five places to move up to P10 by the end of Lap 1. By Lap 25, he became a part of the epic five-car battle for P8, with Kevin Magnussen, Fernando Alonso, Mick Schumacher, and Zhou Guanyu. Norris moved up to P9 in the fight.
The Briton was shown the black and white flag after three track limit violations, that eventually became a 5s time penalty. He served it on Lap 44 as he came in for hard tyres.
Continuing the struggle with the set-up of the McLaren car, and being unsighted by the tyre covers, to not even be able to see the white line on Turn 1, Norris caught and overtook Magnussen for P7 on Lap 63.
“On top of a five second penalty, we did a good job, to still finish there. I’m happy, the pace was reasonable, tough, not an easy car to manage - just every run we’ve done we’ve realised how compromised we’ve been. We’ve always just been two steps behind, because of the amount of problems we’ve had in FP1 not getting to know porpoising levels, and the correct wing levels and things like that.
“I think if we could restart the weekend we’d be a lot stronger. I think we could probably fight the Alpines. I think we could be quite confident in that because of just the issues we’ve had, which is hard. We’re not scored as high as we should. I guess there’s positives and negatives if you look at it that way.
“But today’s race was good, and some good racing and some good battles with everyone and some good points.”
Multiple drivers were given track limit warnings, black and white flags, and time penalties, in a weekend that saw them dished out by race stewards, as they enforced strict rules to drivers gaining an advantage over those who stuck within the limits.
Whilst agreeing it was correct to enforce the penalties for certain areas of the Red Bull Ring circuit, Norris believed there were other sections where drivers didn’t gain an advatage.
“It’s the same for everyone if I think of it that way. The annoying one, the last two corners I completely understand, like you run wide there, it’s so difficult to judge at the speeds we’re doing, but there you run wide and you pretty much gain an advantage. Whereas I had one in Turn 1 where I got my penalty.
“In Turn 1, I locked up the front tyre, I’ve hit the sausage, I’ve lost a second up to the hill and then I get track limits for that. I’ve been punished enough because I’ve lost one second. It’s a bit stupid some of them - it’s the same for everyone and we wanted consistency so it’s just frustrating when you’re in the car."
Talking to the media, Norris added:
“The worst one is Turn 6, say the car’s two metres wide from the white line to the gravel you’ve got two metres of five centimetres so if you use all the track you get punished if you go to the gravel, that should be a limit, but if you go those five centimetres through the gravel, it’s track limits - that’s just a silly one. I think we’ve argued it but we wanted it to be strict since last year and we want it to be the same every time and so on, but us drivers all want something different and something better. It’s just a difficult track to always judge the limits so finely on.”
Starting in P15 the odds seemed against Norris to even be able to make it into the points, let alone finish the race in the position that he did, which was pretty much the ‘best of the rest’. The momentum of an improving McLaren, and the positive feelings from today can be taken into the next race weekend at Le Castellet.
“I think a little bit of luck was on our side with Sainz out and Perez out, but the pace we still deserved to be where we were. Alonso was fast, the Alpines were very fast but to finish P7 and P9, was good points. It was damage limitation from what’s been a difficult weekend especially from my side, and not so much the other side, but as I said earlier, how compromised we were with the set-up all weekend and how far we were with some things, there was a decent amount of more potential in the car this weekend, so hopefully we can bring it to the next one.”