Lando Norris misses victory in Formula 1: “I should have won”

Lando Norris misses victory in Formula 1: “I should have won”

Max Verstappen breathed a sigh of relief. “It was very close, we had to choose an aggressive strategy,” said the Dutchman after his seventh victory in the tenth Formula 1 race of the season, wiping the sweat from his brow. Triumphs now require hard work for the world champion.

In the Red Bull, he won in Barcelona on Sunday, just ahead of Lando Norris (McLaren) and Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes: “We couldn’t afford any mistakes, I had to step on the gas.” It was worth it. In the drivers’ championship, he increased his lead to 69 points over Norris. Norris recognized what had changed in the scene. It’s no longer about luck: “I should have won.”

Concentration of the performance elite

Barcelona became a place of pilgrimage again. There was no empty seat on Sunday, although there were supposedly 100,000 spectators. Although the race track, as beautifully curved as it may be over hill and valley, does not have many exciting Formula 1 stories to tell, it is more of a procession.

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There are few overtaking maneuvers, and in the past seven years, winners have come from the second row at best, like Verstappen on Sunday. And so the tenth chapter of the 2024 Formula 1 season begins with a repeat. Once again, the world champion is at the front. Once again, confident. And yet, something is brewing behind the scenes.

The race offered what had been apparent for weeks, from the first lap. An exciting gathering of the elite. McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari have repeatedly appeared within striking distance, overtaking Red Bull, even the car with the special helmsman Verstappen in the cockpit. And then they still don’t manage to leave the champion behind. Because the Dutchman knows how to cleverly take advantage of the approach of the competition.

Russell shoots forward

A Mercedes in front? That was already apparent in Canada two weeks ago, when George Russell stormed to pole position. Just outside Barcelona, ​​the Englishman shot past Verstappen and Norris on the outside lane after the start at the end of the straight to take the lead. Taking advantage of the acceleration from a standstill for 550 meters, Russell weaved his way through the crowds before the first corner.

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His compatriot Norris, who was 0.02 seconds fastest in qualifying on Saturday, paid the price for this marginal lead. Nothing is more helpful than slipstream for drivers in cars that are so susceptible to wind. Provided the cars are more or less equally fast. In Spain, team bosses like Toto Wolff (Mercedes) spoke of nuances. Sometimes it is just down to the tire pressure or the temperature. One or two degrees Celsius more or less as a performance-determining factor?

Verstappen made this assessment look a bit like hot air. He sucked up Russell’s lead. The overtaking maneuver into the lead was one of the easiest. And he pulled away, by two, three, four, five seconds. Nothing the Silver Arrows could do, and certainly not Ferrari. But they still contributed to the entertainment.

Tension in the air

With tough attacks among each other, with wheel-to-wheel duels between Hamilton and Sainz. Nico Hülkenberg, again eleventh, also contributed to this when he left Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) behind. Here and there on Sunday the cars touched each other, drivers complained, the race management wisely kept quiet. Nothing happened, except sport. And that’s why there was tension in the air.

Because McLaren and Norris were aiming for victory with a different strategy. Stay out for a long time, drive for a long time in order to be able to overtake the series world champion in the last third via a pit stop. A difficult calculation, nerve-wracking. Because Norris seems to be losing touch, second by second.

When he returns after his first pit stop on lap 24 (Verstappen had come in for service on lap 19), there are a good eleven laps left. But nothing has happened. Norris rushes up, overtakes Hamilton, and battles with Russell. It’s a close call, not giving away an inch. Norris wins.

“Step on the gas, someone is coming”

It’s not just in the back of Verstappen’s mind: only seven seconds left and twenty revs to go. This is the moment for the world champion team to play its last card. Pit stop in the 45th for Verstappen, back out with new tires. Full throttle. And waiting, fleeing. An interesting constellation: waiting for Norris. He has to turn again.

Now comes the “decisive” phase, his race engineer calls out to him. Three laps after Verstappen, he changes tires for a second time. The mechanics need 3.8 seconds to change the tires. Much too long. 1.9 is recorded for Red Bull. The world champion team is also fast off the track.

Verstappen takes the lead again, albeit being chased by Norris. Norris doesn’t just nibble away, he tears away bigger chunks. Verstappen gets a clear run and no longer has to worry about his tires. In other words: “Step on the gas, someone is coming who can do it.”

Not Mercedes with record world champion Hamilton, who has now easily overtaken Russell, not Ferrari, although only just behind the Silver Arrows with Charles Leclerc (5th) and Carlos Sainz (6th). It is the re-promoted McLaren, who finishes 2.2 seconds after Verstappen. Just a few laps longer and they would have made it? Norris smiles. He knows when he has lost the race. At the start.

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