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Lando Norris, driver of the day | Chinese GP

Published On:: 21/04/2024

Motorsport is amazing because it never stops to surprise.

McLaren expected the Chinese Grand Prix to be a case of damage limitation and it turned out to be the team’s strongest weekend of the season so far.  Pole Position in the Sprint, a strong qualifying performance ahead of the grand prix and a podium for Lando Norris on Sunday. 

Ironically, on the paper the Shanghai circuit with its slow and long corners on top of a long straight featured all the elements the MCL38 isn't particularly strong at. Surprisingly enough, Lando Norris shone in qualifying in difficult track conditions and on Sunday with an awesome drive. As a result, he got a well-deserved “driver of the day”. 


“I’m really happy and surprised as the same time. Everything was perfect in the race strategy and the tyre management. The car felt great, I felt comfortable, and I could push It’s a great satisfaction for the whole team. They deserved it: good strategy, good pit stops”, said the Brit from the second spot of the podium. 

The race pace was there with Lando sometimes even quicker than the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez. “Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it, but it shows the team did a good job. We’re working hard and it’s paying off.  We feared the Ferraris, but they lacked pace”.

If Lando showed to have the race under control, the team did an excellent job as well. With the circus returning on the Chinese soil for the first time after pandemic, the track was new for everyone, and it was important to arrive prepared. The team captained by Andrea Stella also deserves a star because they did their homework ahead of the Grand Prix and were able to interpret the track very well during the difficult conditions in qualifying, scoring the pole position for the Sprint on Sunday with Lando, while Oscar Piastri closed in P8.

Expectations were high for the Sprint: could Lando take his first win, at long last? With warmer temperatures than on Friday, it was simply unknown ahead of the 19 laps Sprint race. 

Lando didn’t make a great start while Lewis Hamilton got a great run and held the McLaren wide on the outside going into Turn 1. It was a clean action, but Lando was obliged to go wide and dropped from pole to second and then was engulfed by Fernando Alonso, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. McLaren’s hopes were different of course, and Lando fought finishing in P6 at -22” from the winner Max Verstappen. P7 for Oscar Piastri. 


“We had no chance today,” stated a disappointed Lando, after apologizing to his team for what happened at the start. “We might have finished one or two positions higher, but the Mercedes has good pace, as did Red Bull and Ferrari, and I only survived because if DRS”.

Things didn’t go as expected but the McLaren team kept working hard and looking at the results scored on Sunday that they reacted promptly as we can see from the final gap: -22 from Sprint racer on Saturday to an impressive -13.7 on Sunday in the grand prix race. 

“The improvement from Saturday to Sunday was big”, explained the driver of the day. “I think that's why we were probably a bit surprised. I felt comfortable and the car felt pretty good as well. What did change? We were just quicker, and we didn't struggle as much as we thought. The longer corners, like Turn 1, have always been a big weakness for us but we suffered less, so we're still learning about the car. Contrary to the Sprint, we had a good start. I didn't make a mistake in Turn 1 and go off.  I got past the Aston and then you can just control the race”.

The race strategy worked out as well and McLaren’s pace stunned Ferrari. “I felt confident in the first stint, so I could go a very long time. Things went our way also with VSC. I am really happy to finish on the podium (P2).  Every time I finish behind Max it feels like a win!”