Norris “surprised” Hamilton didn’t fight him harder at start

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Lando Norris said he wouldn’t have finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton if he hadn’t passed the Mercedes at the start of the race – and expected his rival to put up a tougher fight.

The McLaren driver finished second at the Hungaroring after passing the pole-winner on the first lap. Norris went around the outside of Hamilton at turn two and admitted he didn’t expect the Mercedes driver to leave him enough room to get through.

Norris also lost a position to his team mate Oscar Piastri at the start after being boxed in behind Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

“I had a decent start,” he said. “I kind of went with Max and Lewis and I couldn’t go to the right, I had a big slipstream, so I came pretty much halfway alongside Lewis.

Race start, Hungaroring, 2023
Poll: Vote for your 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix Driver of the Weekend
“It was tough to know what to do. If I brake early, then it’s easy for the people to go up the inside of me. I just kind of had to brake where I wanted to brake, and I tried to turn in, but every time I tried to turn in, Lewis was trying to turn in and I got caught out, simple as that. But it happens and obviously Oscar got through, which was great.

“Lewis stayed ahead, which was frustrating, but then I managed to stay on the outside [at turn two]. I was a bit surprised, because I would have thought he’d run me a bit wider but he didn’t. So it was close.

“I’m sure he was still trying but it’s very easy to lock up into turn two, so even going into the corner I went back of a couple clicks on brake balance just to attack a little bit more. And it worked out.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Getting past Hamilton at that point “saved our race”, Norris admitted. “If I didn’t get past Lewis there, I don’t think I would have overtaken him today because their race pace was very strong. Their general pace was very strong. I just think they didn’t execute a very good race and that overtake made me get a podium.”

Norris believes there’s little to choose between the overall performance of Mercedes and McLaren, though their strengths lie in different areas.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Hungaroring, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix in pictures
“I think between us and Mercedes we’re pretty tied,” he said. “If you look at tyre degradation, Mercedes are way, way better than we are. Always have been. Mercedes have always been very, very strong with tyre deg.

“If you look at [qualifying], the Mercedes was quite a bit quicker with Lewis… I believe that Mercedes are very close, but it’s tight. Like I said, if Lewis stayed ahead in turn two they would have beaten us today and I probably wouldn’t be on the podium at all.”

However Norris admitted McLaren’s performance at the slower Hungaroring exceeded their predictions before the weekend began.

“The expectation was not to be on the podium,” he said. “It’s a lower-speed circuit, there’s no super high-speed. You have turn four and turn 11, which are pretty high-speed, but compared to Silverstone, it’s not like an eighth-gear, flat out, Copse, Stowe kind of corner.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“So we just lowered the expectation. We didn’t expect to be quite as good. But actually, this Tarmac provides good grip and that’s a good thing for us. A hot day like today made things even harder than they would have been.

“I think on Friday, the long-run pace was very competitive. Today, we struggled more than we would have liked, but we know this is an area for improvement. So I think it’s a positive surprise to be where we are. But we have the same pace as Mercedes, it’s just we’ve done a better job. So I have to thank the whole team for that.”

Beating one of the Red Bulls was an added bonus, he admitted. “Genuinely I don’t think we expected to be here this weekend, especially in P2. Both Red Bulls are way quicker so the expectation to be ahead of them is basically a zero straight away.

“Mercedes were on pole here last year, and their car has been pretty good. I know Lewis complains a lot of how amazing our car is and how bad theirs is, but they don’t have a bad car. And they haven’t all season.”

Bringing the F1 news from the source

RaceFans strives to bring its readers news directly from the key players in Formula 1. We are able to do this thanks in part to the generous backing of our RaceFans Supporters.

By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the equivalent in other currencies) you can help cover the costs involved in producing original journalism: Travelling, writing, creating, hosting, contacting and developing.

We have been proudly supported by our readers for over 10 years. If you enjoy our independent coverage, please consider becoming a RaceFans Supporter today. As a bonus, all our Supporters can also browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

10 comments on “Norris “surprised” Hamilton didn’t fight him harder at start”

  1. I like it that Norris really gives quite solid answers that touch the real things that go on and go into their thinking. Most of the time he is quite realistic in his assessments of where they are, be it that he tends to be a tad more pessimistic than most.

  2. Bring on Spa!

  3. Hamilton did leave Norris a lot of space, but given it was lap 1 he probably didn’t want to compromise his run to the next corner too much. Or maybe he was trying to get a run on Piastri again, who knows.

    Still, it’s a nice change from the usual antics of simply driving competitors off.

    1. Still, it’s a nice change from the usual antics of simply driving competitors off.

      It’s refreshing. We still saw a drive off the track from Verstappen at T1 though.

  4. isthatglock21
    24th July 2023, 12:39

    Nah he easily passes Lewis in the first stint, Merc pace was awful for 2/3 of the race bar the end. Even Oscar pulled like 11 seconds on Lewis, more than enough to overtake. McLaren is rapid

  5. He would have gotten Hamilton in the first stint, but 2nd stint and final stint could have been different. Mercedes still with their ultra conservative strategies. If anything, Hamilton has always worked best with an aggressive strategy here.

  6. Mercedes was faster on the last stint only. Could not keep up on the first, was demolished on the 2nd and much stronger in the last one because mclaren’s was a bit longer.

  7. Fred said it very clearly a few months ago. I’m pretty sure everybody remembers, ah and also Max said something relevant, if you still can drive it’s not too late to learn

  8. He isn’t the only one that was surprised to see Hamilton gave up 3 positions right at the start of the race. No wonder the commentator said “No grip, no traction, no drive for Lewis Hamilton”.

  9. Mercedes should have gone with softs

Comments are closed.