Lando Norris gained invaluable Formula 3 experience in readiness for a full campaign in the category in 2017 on one of the most demanding and unforgiving tracks in the world last weekend (19-20 Nov).
The British teenager slid wide and into the barriers in Saturday’s Qualification race at Macau resulting in a lowly 26th place start for his GP debut but impressively sliced his way through to a praiseworthy 11th place – and fourth-best “rookie” in the Suncity Group Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix – the FIA Formula Three World Cup today. The annual non-championship Macau event brings the curtain down on a stunningly successful triple championship winning season and Norris now eagerly awaits the outcome of voting for the McLaren Autosport BRDC Awards (4 Dec) after being named one of four finalists in the British Club Driver of the Year category.
Norris, who only recently turned 17-years-old (13 Nov), posted the fifth and seventh fastest times in the opening practice and qualifying sessions on Thursday – the quickest Macau “rookie” – and underlined his competitiveness in the high-quality 29-car field with further top-10 times on Friday. Eighth in practice, Norris was very unlucky to be denied the opportunity to improve on his fastest time in final qualifying. On his last lap and with only two minutes remaining, Lando set his best “first sector” time around the 3.85-mile Circuito da Guia street circuit – despite spots of rain falling – only for the session to be red flagged for a third and final time due to an incident resulting in an unrepresentative fifth row start on Saturday.
But Lando was one of a number of drivers to slide wide on the dirty track surface exiting the fast Mandarin right hand kink on the opening lap, the resulting impact causing instant retirement which meant a back of the grid start for today’s Grand Prix on a track comprising of closed public roads, ultra-narrow in places and bordered by unforgiving steel barriers. Despite overtaking opportunities being very limited, Lando scythed his Carlin entered Dallara-Volkswagen through to 11th place at the chequered flag in the 15-lap race – just 13secs behind the winner having set his quickest time on the final lap.
The 2016 season has been a phenomenal one for the BRDC Rising Star having won the Toyota Racing Series, Formula Renault Eurocup and Formula Renault Northern European Cup titles. Bristol-born Lando has scored an incredible 43 podium finishes that include 21 race wins, 26 pole-position starts and 13 fastest race laps. Norris will shortly decide on his plans for 2017 but will attempt to successfully defend his Toyota Racing Series title in the 15 race, five-event series staged early next year (January/February).
“Macau has been a good experience and today’s GP was very exciting – it was just a shame I started at the back of the grid.
I was P7, 0.4secs off the pace in first qualifying on Thursday, and like in the opening practice when I finished P5, was the quickest ‘rookie’ which was pleasing. I pushed a little too hard in qualifying, made a mistake and hit the barriers at San Francisco [Bend] but was still happy with my first day on-track at Macau. In Friday’s qualifying, I was caught out by all of the red flags. It was frustrating as there was definitely more time to be had in the lap but it was just one of those things.
In the Qualifying race, the red lights stayed on for an unusually long time, my clutch overheated then I mistimed my start when they ultimately changed to green. I was on the outside going through Turn 2 and understeered off on the dirty side of the track like three other cars. Today’s race was really satisfying. I made a good start, passing a couple of cars, and settled in to a decent rhythm, setting up most of my overtake manoeuvres for the long straight and picking off one or two cars on each lap. I’d had experience of a street track at Monaco this year but Macau was very different.”