Lando Norris was awarded Driver of the Day for his formidable drive to third place at the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday, leaving his McLaren boss super impressed with the well-deserved reward of a podium finish.
The 21-year-old was in impressive form as he conquered the challenging conditions that caught so many out during an action-packed afternoon at Imola. The old-school track was having a field day with a race that started wet and dried up, punishing errors severely.
But Norris was unperturbed, unflustered, kept his cool while many with much more experience lost theirs. He got ahead of the Ferrari duo after the restart and slotted into second place but simply did not have the ammo to hold-off a storming Lewis Hamilton, The Mercedes driver recovered from ninth place at the restart, having beached it at Tosa, to take second behind race-winner Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
Nevertheless third place, in a race of high attrition and challenging conditions, was a big statement by one of the youngest drivers on the grid and a big result for a McLaren team showing glimpses of the greatness that once was their trademark.
Andreas Seidl, team principal and prime architect of the team’s revival, was impressed too: “An exciting race and a great show for the fans.
“A podium for Lando is a great reward for the whole team, and the hard work that’s gone in here at the track and back at the factory this weekend – but also for the effort over the winter to get us to this point from the team in Woking and our colleagues at Mercedes.
“Great call today to restart on the Soft tyre after the red flag. That gave us an edge and allowed Lando to take the place from Charles. Lando was flying all weekend and managed a lot of tricky situations today in difficult conditions. He and his team managed brilliantly to get this well-deserved podium,” added Seidl.
When told fans voted him the DoD, Norris joked that he was surprised he had any fans. Later in the team report, he said of his race at Imola: “Obviously very happy to get a podium. A very well-executed race from the team and from myself.
“I think I drove very well – I made a lot of good decisions – but it wasn’t easy. The beginning of the race was pretty tough. A bit of contact here and there, not a perfect start but I kept my head cool.
“I kept focused throughout because sometimes you know you’ve got to expect the red flags and the Safety Cars and think that more opportunities can come towards you later in the race. So, I kept that in mind and solidly came back through.
“There were a couple of people crashing and making mistakes ahead of me, which is what we’re here to take advantage of, and then we made a good decision at the end to go onto the Soft tyres and get ahead of Leclerc.
“We almost held on to P2 but not quite. It was a tough race, but very rewarding for myself and more importantly for the team, so a big thanks to them for bringing new parts, and working so hard on the car back at the factory to make it better every weekend,” added Norris.
Daniel Ricciardo proved to be the consummate team player when he allowed his teammate through during a spell of stalemate between the two, with the team’s new driver holding up his teammate. The Aussie obliged without complaint.
It is clear he is still dialling himself into the frame at the Mercedes-powered outfit, bearing in mind he only drove Renault-engined cars from 2014 until last year.
Ricciardo summed up his afternoon at Imola: “One of those races where you’ve got rain on the laps to grid and you’re not really sure how it’s going to go. I managed to get a position at the start and was then running in fifth for a bit. Just as the track started to dry I grained the front right, so I couldn’t really keep a good pace.
“For the restart, we put on the Soft tyre to make the most of a potential standing start. I tried to keep on top of the Soft until the end of this long stint but, just couldn’t really manage it. I think both front and rear tyres I struggled with.
“So, certainly not an awesome race, but I think to come home sixth is good for the Constructors’ points with Lando in third. Congrats to Lando, he had a great race and it’s awesome to see the car has the pace.
“My race pace was nothing too special. I’ve just got to keep working on it and improve,” added a humble Ricciardo, with a touch of class that few on the grid have.