Lando Norris, McLaren, Losail International Circuit, 2023

Norris encouraged McLaren were “quicker than Max” at points in Qatar GP

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Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris admitted the Qatar Grand Prix was a difficult race after they rose to take a double podium finish.

However the McLaren drivers were encouraged by their pace in a race where they started sixth and 10th but rose to both finish on the podium, within six seconds of winner Max Verstappen.

Piastri jumped into second position after the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell collided at turn one. From there the rookie spent the majority of the race sitting under 10 seconds adrift of Verstappen.

“I’m very, very happy obviously,” said Piastri. “Turn one was nice – that was definitely the game plan before the race – but really impressive pace.”

The race took place in hot and humid conditions, with multiple drivers complaining of dehydration after the chequered flag and Williams rookie Logan Sargeant retiring from the race due to illness.

“[It was] definitely the hardest race I’ve had in my life,” Piastri admitted. “Yeah, it was hot.

“I think also with the three stops it was basically flat-out. It was 57 qualifying laps, which I definitely feel like I’ve done. So a really good race. Happy that all the tyres stayed together, that was good obviously. Happy with another trophy too.”

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After being frustrated with mistakes in both Friday’s qualifying and Saturday’s sprint qualifying sessions, Norris described Sunday’s grand prix as a “mega race from start to finish.”

“A good opening lap. I learned from my mistake yesterday of going wide – I told you I’d go tight and I did and it worked out,” he continued. “So a good start, good pace throughout the whole thing.

“Probably the best pace out there today. So I’m happy. Stressful, hot, sweaty – I feel a bit tired. But a great job for the team. Three [podiums] in a row now.”

All drivers were mandated to only run a maximum of 18 laps on a single set of tyres due to safety concerns. Norris believes that meant the race was run at a relentless pace.

“I think the three-stop made it a lot harder just physically, you could push a lot more,” he explained. “Even the last stint you could pretty much push flat out. Probably one of the hardest races I’ve done in a way, but it’s a nice challenge. Congrats to Oscar – no mistakes.”

Norris admitted McLaren were quicker than expected around the high-speed Losail circuit, and were even able to gain on Verstappen at times.

“The pace turned out to be probably better than I was expecting,” he said in the post-race press conference, “for us to be at points in the race probably a bit quicker than Max, maybe at some points a bit slower.

“But I think on the whole, for us to finish P3 was as good as it could have been today. So I’m happy for the whole team, for Oscar, for everyone in McLaren, for us to be two cars on the podium again for a third time is a fantastic.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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13 comments on “Norris encouraged McLaren were “quicker than Max” at points in Qatar GP”

  1. It didn’t look like Verstappen really pushed at any point while the Mclarens were pushing hard throughout. Great to see a car closer to the RBR but I think the max tyre stint rules removed all the RBR race pace advantage on tyre wear.

  2. Not quick enough to beat cruising Max.
    Max didnt really push, he just enjoy the race since he already won the 3rd WDC.

  3. Max was managing. Almost doing a Schumacher and only pushing on the final laps of each stint. At various moments he was slower than Piastri with newer tyres because he didn’t need to push. Mclaren isn’t there yet, still, highly impressive of them to save the season like this.

    Piastri made the right choice ditching Alpine.

    1. Alonso also ditched Alpine for good. Difficult to believe but till last year Alpine had Alonso and Piastri in their team, but they were focusing on Ocon.

      1. It certainly seems there is some proper mismanagement going on there indeed. Unless their objective is just to be one of the 10 teams getting a positive cashflow for just showing up (#welldoneliberty).

  4. On Balance I would say McLaren are very close to RB right now, They now have two very good drivers and a competitive car, Max is main the difference right now, Peres is the proof.

    1. Agree. McLaren has the strongest driver pairing out there and the car is making steps forward. Nice to see.

  5. Looking on Russell’s pace, I think one of the Mercedes could’ve won this race if without the turn one contact. Red Bull looks like 3rd best car this weekend, see how Perez was struggling on that car…

    1. I am not sure about that as Max didn’t push a lot during his stints but we see now the advance Red Bull was is it tyre wear (or lack off) when it was capped it was much closer but still the last stint he was new mediums he did 2 fast laps easy. It didn’t show George going fast at the end in the middle he was fast but the McLaren were also fast.

    2. 3rd best car! Now that is comical

      1. I couldn’t believe what I read, 3rd best car LOL

      2. It’s hilarious how some of these guys still insist in using Perez as reference for anything after Suzuka.

    3. You need to look at the faster driver to determine how quick a car is!

      Let’s make a blatant example: someone without ANY racing experience whatsoever drives the red bull in qatar, he would be lucky to do a lap in 2.30 and not crash, then we could say red bull is the worst car of the year, it’s useless to use a driver who’s atm out of his depth for a reference point, you need to use the driver who gets closest to extracting the max of the car.

      If you looked at verstappen 1994 you would think that benetton was a midfield car!

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