Lando Norris asserts that Red Bull’s superior edge in tyre management denied him and McLaren the opportunity to fight harder for victory in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Norris had capitalised on Charles Leclerc vacating his front row berth and a lightning getaway to rise from sixth up to second by the time the race was suspended for a hefty collision on the approach to the first corner.
Although Norris was unable to mount a challenge to Max Verstappen on the restart, the Briton remained close enough to the Red Bull to size up a move on the seventh lap.
But Norris’ attempts at Turns 1 and 4 were rebuffed by Verstappen, who instantly scampered up the road to escape DRS range.
With the grand prix replicating the trend seen in Saturday’s shortened 24-lap Sprint race encounter, Norris accepts McLaren must understand the tyre degradation shortcoming that prevents either of its drivers from maintaining their early pace.
“Yeah, I think similar to what we saw yesterday in the Sprint,” Norris said. “I’m not far behind for the first 10-15, 17 laps but that final phase, I just drop off a bit too much.
“I don’t know if it’s just we’re a bit slower and I’m pushing a bit more to try to keep up, and then I pay the price or it’s just a little bit of our tyre degradation is not quite as good and we suffer in the slow speed quite a bit with the rears, and that’s where we struggle then with the lap time in the end.
“So, yeah, clear things to improve on, like I said yesterday, but still a very positive day for us.”
Even if he had managed to overtake the Dutchman in the opening exchanges, Norris believes he would have struggled to keep the Red Bull at bay to the end of 71 laps.
Expanding on the tussle, Norris assessed: “I thought if there was a little bit more space, or if I was literally a couple metres further down, things could have been a little bit different. But at the same time, to then try to keep Max behind for the rest of the race would have been a whole new challenge.
“So, good that we’re getting there and I had an attempt. I think that’s one of my first attempts at really trying to race past him, ever, in my career in Formula 1, which is a good thing, but yeah, that last little thing needs to click and then we can do it more often.”
Having been compromised by a poor qualifying in Mexico the previous weekend, Norris returned to the podium for the seventh time in 2023 on Sunday in Interlagos.
Although he was denied his maiden Formula 1 victory by Verstappen, Norris was enthused by a weekend that also included a Sprint pole position and the fastest race lap.
“I do enjoy it here,” he added. “And, you know, away from the circuit I’ve always enjoyed. I just haven’t had any good races and I think of course this weekend has turned things around a little bit, so yes, it’s definitely been a positive weekend.
“It’s definitely boosted my confidence here in Brazil as an outline. And I think that’s a very good thing. So I’ve enjoyed it. Yes, it’s been a good weekend. Another pole… Pole position? I would never count a Sprint race pole like a proper pole or a Sprint race win as a proper win. But yeah, I think it’s been a very good weekend from start to finish and I’ve enjoyed it.”