Without a doubt, the star of yesterday’s Formula 1 qualifying was McLaren’s British youngster Lando Norris. Against all the odds, Norris reached a starting place of eighth for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix and if such a performance continues, it will be easy to understand why comparisons have been made between Norris and current Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
For those who know the background of this high flying Brit, they would not have been so surprised to see what he achieved. Although, Kimi Raikkonen probably would have been seeing how he is behind him in ninth in a machine which did not produce what it is capable of. Norris’ performance meant that after all the Daniel Ricciardo hype, his was the quickest Renault-powered car today.
“Our aim was just to get into Q2… and that went pretty well,” said the British youngster on his debut weekend. “I think you can tell by doing three runs in Q1 we were a bit unsure if I could definitely make it into Q2. So we put a lot of effort into trying to achieve that and obviously that all went to plan.’’
“Then I only had one set of new tyres for Q2 so not in as strong a position as some of the other drivers, but then I still managed to get into Q3 – so definitely not what we were expecting.”
McLaren is expecting to have a successful season and the driving force of it was supposed to come from their impressive Spaniard Carlos Sainz. However, all Sainz could manage was 18th due to Robert Kubica’s puncture on track.
“I’ve been happy with the balance of the car, happy with where we’ve been, happy with my first run…On my first attempt I did a very strong lap, even if we had an engine issue. Then we were improving a lot – good enough for top ten, top eight – when suddenly I found Robert in the last sector with a punctured car and there was nothing he could have done differently.
Sainz will be eager to turn that around on Sunday. McLaren know all too well how damaging a battle within the team can be when there is a high flying rookie due to the fact that the hostility between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton destroyed their title chances in 2007.
Lando Norris has been enjoying his time in Melbourne. At the Season Launch he was busily signing in celebrity mode. At the Albert Park Circuit he has been just as open and generous with his time and in the paddock he has been happily posing for photos with young fans prior to Free Practice 3. In television interviews he comes across as humble and hard-working and now he is delivering on the track…well in qualifying at least.
With such an influx of youth entering Formula One, this is exactly the kind of person the sport needs and there will be many fans around the world wishing him to do well on Sunday. Well, not too well if you are Carlos Sainz of course.