Lando Norris has described how his change of tyres in the Monaco Grand Prix almost undid a weekend of building confidence in his McLaren and his shot at the podium.Charles Leclerc failed to start. The McLaren driver claimed his second podium of 2021 in third place after benefiting from Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas having pit stop problems.
Bottas and Norris were the first front runners to trade their soft compound tyres for hards, and Norris was within 10 seconds of leader Max Verstappen before a drop in pace prompted him to pit on lap 30 of 78.
“The first stint we were pretty competitive,” Norris said post-race. “Pretty similar on pace to what Carlos [Sainz] was doing – and Bottas and Max.
“Maybe Max was slightly ahead – but I could see on the TV screens when I was going past what lap times Max was doing in the lead and I wasn’t that far behind. I was like, ‘OK, this is going well’.”
Norris had said that he had the “confidence to push the car in qualifying”, in which he was only 0.274s slower than pole winner Leclerc, and that that confidence had continued into the first stint of the race on the same set of soft tyres he had gone sixth fastest in Q2 with.
However the hard compound he ended the race on changed the balance. Norris came under late pressure from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez who pitted five laps later than the McLaren driver and then closed a nine-second gap to Norris down to under 0.6s using his tyre life advantage. However the Red Bull driver couldn’t find a way past.
“As soon as we put the hard tyre on, it kind of turned to the opposite,” said Norris.
“It was a very hard car to drive. Much easier to lock up and snatch the front, worse over the bumps and so on. Not a lot of confidence.
“As soon as I heard where Sergio was in terms of his tyre strategy, how much later he boxed, I got pretty worried but I kept it on the black stuff, which is the most important.”
Yesterday’s result means Norris lies third in the standings after the first five races.
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