Lando Norris may have finished almost 20 seconds behind Max Verstappen in the Japanese Grand Prix, but insists McLaren are edging closer to the top.
There was no answer for Verstappen at Suzuka, and apart from a brief challenge at the start, in the first couple of corners from Norris, the Dutchman otherwise was smooth sailing to the win.
The Red Bull ace finished just under twenty seconds ahead of Norris, but the latter insists the gap wouldn’t have been so big had it not been to a Virtual Safety Car, but then who said Verstappen was pushing?
Nevertheless, McLaren had a strong race to take a double podium finish, with Piastri finishing third behind Norris, as the Woking squad are steadily improving with every race and every car upgrade.
“The pace was so good today after losing 10 seconds under the VSC, to only be 19 seconds behind Max it shows how good of a day it’s been,” Norris told Sky Sports F1 after the race. “I’m just very happy for everyone, Oscar as well with his first podium.
“I’ve not been that strong at starts today but I got a great one. So I worked hard on that with my start engineer,” he revealed.
“I almost had Max but I had so much understeer in Turns 1 and 2. But I tried, gave it a shot, just not enough today,” he admitted.
Later in McLaren’s post race report, Norris added: “Another amazing day for us. A P2 and a P3, the team did an amazing job and I’m very proud of the steps forward we’re making every weekend.
“We’re getting there,” he claimed. “The pace was extremely strong today. We’re not close to Max but we’re not miles away either, so it was a very good day and I’m very happy.
“Congratulations to Oscar, his first podium in Formula 1, our first double podium together. A good moment for us,” Norris concluded.
McLaren achieved an important milestone in Japan
McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella summed up his team’s grand prix in Japan, he said: “This week in Japan we’ve reached an important milestone in our journey at McLaren.
“For the first time this season, we finished with both cars on the podium. It’s also the first podium for Oscar in Formula 1. That’s a phenomenal achievement in his rookie season. We’re delighted for him and so pleased as a team that we’ve been able to make it possible.
“The remarkable job done by the whole team trackside and factory side is what has made the difference; I want to thank all of the team once more.
“We look forward to the remainder of the season with optimism. It will be tough to repeat this kind of result, but we’ll give it our best shot and hope we can take that final step in performance,” Stella concluded.
As for McLaren CEO Zak Brown, he was clearly elated after his team’s double podium, he told Sky Sports F1: “The team is just doing such a fantastic job, executing week in, week out.
“I think we will be strong at the next race, so we will keep pushing, that’s all we can do,” the American vowed.