More chance now of catching Verstappen – Norris

Formula 1
Lando Norris arriving at the Spanish Grand Prix wearing a hatGetty Images

McLaren’s Lando Norris says the hopes of catching Max Verstappen in the World Championship this year have grown in recent races.

Norris acknowledged that beating the Red Bull driver would be “tough” because Verstappen “doesn’t have a weakness”.

But he added: “There is more chance and possibilities now, especially if Mercedes are in the fight; more chance of having a bigger swing of points.

“A bad weekend for Max was third but it could be fifth or sixth (now). And if you can be the guy who wins, within one weekend you can turn quite a lot of points around fairly quickly. If it goes like that, there is a higher chance.”

Verstappen’s dominance of Formula 1, which started in mid-2022, has ended in the past two months. McLaren and Ferrari have taken a win apiece in the past four events and Mercedes also fought for the win in the last race in Canada.

Norris, who has had a victory in Miami followed by two second places at Imola and Canada and a fourth in Monaco in the past four races, said: “Max’s bad weekend is never going to be a bad weekend. It’s still going to be a good amount of points.

“He is just strong in all areas. It is rare he makes mistakes or messes up qualifying.

“But with more pressure you never know how that changes, and always with pressure it is always easier to make mistakes.”

Norris lies in third place in the championship, 63 points behind Verstappen and seven behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, the other driver to beat Verstappen in the past four races with his victory in Monaco.

The Briton said: “You can’t doubt Max in any area. He doesn’t have a weakness outright. It is possible (to beat him to the title) but it is going to need a very good car performance and a very consistent performance throughout the season.

“They have been a little bit more up and down than what we have so we just need to capitalise on when they’re down and try and be the one car that is on the up.”

Norris acknowledged he could have won in Canada two weeks ago, had he made the decision to pit immediately when the first of two safety cars was deployed.

“Max shouldn’t have won last weekend in Montreal but he was the most consistent through the race, made least mistakes as a driver and a team and came out on top,” Norris said.

“We should have boxed (pitted) on the safety car. George (Russell of Mercedes) had the quickest car and if he didn’t make a couple of mistakes, which all drivers do, he should have probably also had a chance of winning the race.

“It just shows that when Max hasn’t had the best car, he still shows what he is capable of doing.

“Now it’s even more important to get the strategy right and the smaller things correct because when the cars are so close on pace those things make a bigger difference.”

Norris said he expected this weekend’s race in Spain to be another close fight between the top three or four teams, after a difficult weekend for Ferrari in Montreal.

“We have been good at all of them so far so I don’t expect things to change too much,” Norris said.

“I expect it to be close. Red Bull probably a bit more back to where they should be. Ferrari after last weekend back to where they should be.

“We have been the most consistently ‘there’ team. We’ve not suddenly been quickest and easily dominating a weekend like we’ve seen Red Bull and Ferrari do.

“But we have been a very good all-rounder so far, which over the course of a season is exactly what we want and is a good strength from where we were last year, when we were very up and down.”

Verstappen said: “I don’t think it will be like the beginning of the season (when he dominated) but we know this is a track that our car should suit a bit more.

“I’m aware everyone has been catching up a lot but compared to the last few races, this should give us a better chance.

“McLaren have been quick everywhere and they are going to be quick here. Mercedes and Ferrari have made good steps forward and should be quite decent here.”

Russell said Spain would “be a real test” for Mercedes as to whether their progress in Canada would continue. “If we are fast this weekend, that bodes really well for the season,” he said.

Team-mate Lewis Hamilton said he was “optimistic”.

Max Verstappen drives his Red Bull with McLaren's Lando Norris close behind

Getty Images

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