Lando Norris believes McLaren’s double podium finish at the Japanese Grand Prix was more “deserved” than the one the team achieved at Monza two years ago.
McLaren maximised the strength of its recently enhanced MCL60 car through high-speed corners to deliver two cars inside the top three on Sunday afternoon at Suzuka.
Second place brought Lando Norris’ fourth podium of the campaign, while Oscar Piastri accompanied him upon his maiden trip to the rostrum in Formula 1 after finishing third.
The result also marked McLaren’s first double podium since the team capitalised on Mercedes and Red Bull’s troubles to secure a 1-2 at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, back when Daniel Ricciardo led Norris home at Monza.
However, Norris, who arrived in F1 with McLaren in 2019, asserts the British squad’s Japanese GP result upholds more merit because it was achieved on genuine pace.
“From the team’s side of things, yes, I’m much happier,” he said. “Our first one since Monza a couple of years ago, a few years ago. But in a way, our most deserved in terms of we’re there on pure pace.
“Nothing had to go our way, we’re just where we deserved to be. Yep, an incredible day for everyone, but also for myself, things went maybe not always to plan, but the pace was extremely strong.
“Couldn’t challenge Max [Verstappen], I got into the lead for maybe half a second, so I’ll take that. In a way it feels better because the pace feels stronger, I could push.
“We were where we deserved to be. So a good job by the whole team to execute a perfect race.”
Norris had started the race in third but took advantage of his team-mate being squeezed on the approach to Turn 1 to move into second, momentarily snatching the lead.
But the Briton was then hampered by the slow-moving Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, which enabled Piastri to leapfrog ahead after his opening pit stop had coincided with the same Virtual Safety Car period.
Norris, though, proved to be vastly quicker than the rookie, eventually being allowed through via team orders before opening up a 17s cushion to Piastri by the chequered flag.
Although he accepts that Verstappen was likely coasting at the end, Norris reckons it provides encouragement for McLaren that he remained within pit stop range of the race winner without any interruptions.
“No, I was expecting him to probably lap us two or three times… And he didn’t! So… I mean, I was expecting probably a bigger gap,” Norris replied when asked about his 19s deficit to the Red Bull. “I was, genuinely. I think we all were as a team.
“I think it would have been a lot closer. I lost eight, 10 seconds behind Perez under the VSC. I don’t know how hard Max was really pushing, I’m sure he could have gone a bit quicker if he wanted to. To be only 19 seconds behind, he didn’t get a free pit stop, which was lovely.
“I think it’s just signs of our progress, it’s a track that suited the car very well. I’ve been very comfortable since Friday to push and get in a good rhythm, and I think that’s probably one of the most important things here, to feel comfortable with the car and get in a good rhythm.
“I could do that yesterday, and I could do that today. That showed with our speed, we’re able to perform. Yeah, another podium for us, great result, a load of points, so a very good day.”