Norris: Catching Verstappen more likely than previous seasons

By Sports Desk June 21, 2024

Max Verstappen is still the favourite to win the Formula One world title, but Lando Norris is more confident that the Red Bull driver can be caught.

Verstappen is in the hunt for his fourth straight world championship crown, and leads the drivers' standings with five race wins to his name in 2024.

However, only 31 points separate the Dutchman, who is on 169, and second-placed Charles Leclerc, while McLaren's Norris sits third with 113 following his victory in Miami last month.

Mercedes, meanwhile, have come back into contention in recent races, with both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton impressing in qualifying, albeit they have been unable to translate that into a victory as of yet.

But with more contenders, Norris feels the field is opening up.

"There is more chance and possibilities now, especially if Mercedes are in the fight; more chance of having a bigger swing of points." he said, as per BBC Sport, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

"A bad weekend for Max was third but it could be fifth or sixth.

"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."

Norris conceded, though, that Verstappen is still at the very top of his game.

He added: "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."

In the world of Mercedes, Hamilton has urged the team's fans to give backing to Russell, who has faced accusations of the team favouring him, given his team-mate is set to join Ferrari next season.

"I think they know if you look over the years, we've always been a strong team. We've always worked really hard together," Hamilton told reporters.

"I think we need support, not negativity, and I wasn't actually aware that George was experiencing negativity.

"George has done nothing but his best every single weekend and is delivering for the team, so he can't be faulted at all.

"Of course, there can always be things done better within the team, and that comes through conversation, through communication, and that's something that we are consistently working on.

"But we're all in the same boat. We're all working hard together. We want to finish on a high and feel that we owe that to our long-term relationship that we've had."

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  • Norris anticipates eight-car battle for Hungarian pole Norris anticipates eight-car battle for Hungarian pole

    Lando Norris believes there will be an eight-car challenge for pole during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday.

    The Brit set the pace at practice on Friday, just edging Max Verstappen to the top of the pile as they prepare to continue their rivalry at the top of the drivers' standings.

    Carlos Sainz finished third on a day when the action was interrupted following Charles Leclerc's crash, where he spun into the barriers on Turn 4.

    Norris, who finished third in the British Grand Prix last time out, is aiming to get his second win of the season and admits it is tough to call who will come out on top in qualifying, especially after Mercedes' recent success.

    Asked about his chances of taking pole after practice, Norris said: "From today, pretty reasonable. It was a nice lap. Today, we could get a good amount of it, but tomorrow's another day.

    "I think it's close between us, Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull. I feel like we have eight cars here who are going to be fighting for a pole, and even some other cars that looked very quick, like the Haas even.

    "A good first day but definitely a little bit more work to do if we want to be a bit more comfortable."

    Mercedes have won the last two Grand Prix, with George Russell claiming an unexpected win in Austria before Lewis Hamilton ended a three-year wait for victory with a triumph at Silverstone.

    However, Hamilton, who finished seventh in the second practice session behind team-mate George Russell in fifth, was not optimistic about his chances following practice, explaining his car was struggling to cope with the heat in Budapest.

    "[It] felt just as bad as it does normally when it's hot," Hamilton said. "Today's not been a good day, really.

    "The car hasn't felt good setup-wise, but we think we have an idea why, and we'll just work overnight. It's not the best prep so far.

    "[We made] little tweaks [in between sessions] but the car was pretty much the same. There's a particular thing that we left - that we're changing into this weekend - that we probably need to go back on.

    "It's all relatively close otherwise. We couldn't do the pace that the other guys did today, but the long run, pace was pretty decent at the end."

  • Russell seeking Djokovic advice on sporting longevity Russell seeking Djokovic advice on sporting longevity

    George Russell says he has been picking the brains of tennis great Novak Djokovic in a bid to ensure longevity in Formula One.

    The Mercedes driver is aiming to reach the pinnacle of his sport and remain there for a sustained period of time, something achieved by 24-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic.

    A two-time Grand Prix winner - including in Austria this year - Russell has sought inspiration from the Serbian in recent years, as he looks to follow suit in the F1 World Championship.

    And the 26-year-old, who was at Wimbledon for Djokovic's final showdown with Carlos Alcaraz last weekend, gave a brief insight into his learnings.

    "We've shared ideas together, and he's been really open with me about things he's trying and what's working for him," Russell said.

    "I don't want to share too much because they are private conversations, but I just really like how he's constantly wanting to learn more and that inspires me to learn more about myself, what works for me, what works for them and pushing the boundaries.

    "There's a lot that he knows that I won't and vice versa, and you've got to take all these ideas from the best in each profession and see what you can take for yourself.

    "I feel fit, healthy and in a great place right now at the age of 26, but I need to make sure that I'm fit, healthy and as motivated in 10 years' time, 15 years' time, who knows 20 years’ time. I'm trying to put in work now."

    Russell occupies seventh place in the 2024 drivers' championship standings ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, where he finished fifth in the second practice session on Friday.

    Lando Norris led the way with an impressive time of 1:17.788 seconds, 0.243 seconds ahead of leader Max Verstappen, with Carlos Sainz taking third on a day where the action was interrupted following Charles Leclerc's earlier crash.

    The Ferrari driver spun into the barriers after taking too much kerb at Turn 4, but thankfully was unhurt.

  • 'I don't think it's unfair' - Norris feels British GP criticism justified 'I don't think it's unfair' - Norris feels British GP criticism justified

    Lando Norris acknowledged the criticism aimed at him and McLaren following last weekend's British Grand Prix was justified.

    The Briton was leading ahead of the final round of pit stops at Silverstone, and looking on course to close the gap on drivers' championship leader Max Verstappen.

    However, eventual winner Lewis Hamilton undercut Norris, who overran his pit box after McLaren were unable to bring him in at an ideal time.

    After McLaren opted for soft tyres during the race's climax, Norris was then surpassed by Verstappen, and had to settle for a third-place finish.

    While the 24-year-old understands the scrutiny he and the team came under, he feels the most important thing is the way they respond at this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix.

    "No, not at all, it just depends on how you take it," he told Sky Sports. "I don't think it's unfair because you're always going to have it, that's life.

    "People are going to criticise you, people are going to support you, people are going to make mistakes. We're not the only team. There have been times when Red Bull should have won and didn't and Mercedes should have won and didn't.

    "At the same time, we didn't blame anyone but ourselves, and it's a tough one because it hurts when you lose your home race, you have a chance to win and those types of things.

    "But it's more about how you and we as a team handled it, how we learned from it, we reviewed things, and we come back stronger this weekend and for the future races.

    "So, plenty of things to learn, but I'm confident with our team. I think we always accept criticism. Especially when it's constructive, you prefer that way, but you are always going to have people who are supporting and not supporting you.

    "How you use that and how you turn it into something positive is the main thing."

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