Lando Norris, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, 2021

Norris won’t take “excessive risk” starting behind championship contenders

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Lando Norris said he was pleased but surprised to qualify immediately behind the two championship contenders at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver said he was “massively pleased” with his final Q3 lap which earned him third on the grid behind Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

“I’m very surprised to be here, also very happy at the same time,” said Norris. “I think we were confident all weekend that we could get to qualifying and put in a good performance, but probably not to be this high up on the grid.”

He was pleased to claim a place ahead of both cars belonging to McLaren’s most significant rival, Ferrari. “It was a very clean and a nice lap,” said Norris. “And of course to be ahead of the people I want to be ahead of, so [I’m] happy.”

He said he doesn’t intend to get involved in the fight with the title contenders ahead of him. “Of course, you’ve got to respect that they’re going for a championship and you don’t want to harm anything that’s going on there, you don’t want to take any excessive risk.”

“You know what they’re fighting for and I know what I’m fighting for,” Norris continued. “Of course things happen but we can still race, I’m allowed to overtake them, I can still race against them, if I have a chance to overtake then I’ll still overtake.”

McLaren’s hopes of wresting third place in the constructors’ championship from Ferrari are slight. They lie 38.5 points behind their rivals with 44 available.

Norris said his approach will be “like every single race” when it comes to fighting for position. “Of course there’s a lot of responsibility for me, a lot of responsibility for them but they obviously have things to lose and I obviously have things to gain.

“I don’t want to ruin anything. I don’t want to be the guy that gets too involved, as well. I’m not racing them, they’re going to clear off within a few laps so I just need to pick wisely my battles and how I’m racing.”

He is looking forward to seeing how the 2021 championship is decided. “I’m in the best seat for tomorrow, so I’m very excited to see everything unfold and see what goes on.

“It’s actually just a genuine pleasure to be in this position to see everything that’s been going on this season between Max and Lewis and to watch the battles, to watch the racing because I have a lot of respect for them.

“I’m very happy to be P3, not only because it’s a great position to start, but because it gives me the prime position for the view tomorrow.”

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10 comments on “Norris won’t take “excessive risk” starting behind championship contenders”

  1. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that, if there’s an incident between max and Lewis tomorrow, Lando could be challenging to win the grand prix. A great lap today in qually and overall a great season for Lando

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      11th December 2021, 19:02

      It’s quite feasible – that’s how Mika Hakkinen won his first race, and Mansell his last.

  2. I don’t think he’s supposed to worry about their race. Norris should care more about his own single point than Verstappen’s or Hamilton’s championship. I wish they would all go “business as usual”, otherwise we’re watching a semi-staged race which is not to my taste. No special treatments.

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      11th December 2021, 19:11

      There’s a consuetudinary precedent regarding title decisions for other drivers not to interfere unless one or both contenders are not clearly set to dominate the race, like it happened, for instance, in the 1974, 1981 or 2010 decisions (Petrov).
      Mansell once claimed that he was told not to interfere in the 1994 decision after taking pole, although he did not specifically say who told him that. He might have been useful for a couple of laps if he was able to slow Schumacher until the German got a way past him.
      Drivers hinted at this wish not to interfere in 1997 and, as far as I remember, in 2000 and in the Hamilton-Rosberg fights.
      Given that Hamilton and Verstappen ended 1-2 in 13 or whatever of the 21 races of the season (maybe a % record for drivers of different teams), the Norris hint seems perfectly logic to me as a fan and a viewer. A duel is expected and only if doesn’t materialize by itself should someone else “interfere”. I would not like Norris doing a risky divebomb at the first corner to take the lead, knowing that he’ll be overtaken in the following laps.

  3. I like his realistic take on the situation.
    He knows he isn’t in the same race as the guys in front and doesn’t dream of some fairy tale fight against the odds.
    That said, if the guys in front mess it up tomorrow, then I’m sure Lando will make the most of it ;)

  4. He’s not going to have the pace to compete on merit for the top-2 spots, so the best strategy for him is probably to settle into third and try to benefit from any bad luck, shenanigans, etc.

  5. I don’t see why Norris wouldn’t just dive up the inside of Verstappen or Hamilton given half the chance. They have so much to lose that they would just jump out of the way. I mean realistically he’s probably not going to have any where near the same pace as them but if he did he should go for it, take advantage of the situation.

  6. He is a F1 racer, he should strive to win everything in every chance, nothing else matters. The only excuse could be if it is your teammate who is fighting for the championship, otherwise Norris should not care and just race.

  7. Norris is playing this correctly. He is young. Why annoy Red Bull or Mercedes this race. When you negotiate your next contract one or both of these teams might coming looking for you?

  8. I dont think Norris needed to say this although what he said is logical and knows the stakes are quite high in front of him. Lewis and Max might probably disappear into the sunset like they always do lapping other people.

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