British teenager Lando Norris scored a stunning second place – his eighth top-three finish – to maintain his challenge for FIA Formula 2 Championship honours in the latest race at Spa having also made a very impressive F1 official practice début at the Belgian Grand Prix.
The 18-year-old McLaren F1 Test and Reserve driver has now recorded 16 point-scoring top-10 F2 race finishes and is just five-points off the series lead having also posted fourth place over the weekend (24-26 Aug). Norris had notably completed 26-laps in Formula 1’s Free Practice 1 on Friday morning, setting a praiseworthy 18th fastest time (1m 47.363s) in Fernando Alonso’s regular McLaren MCL33 on medium compound tyres, almost a tenth quicker than McLaren regular Stoffel Vandoorne. The reigning FIA F3 Euro champion maturely tackled his first official practice during a F1 GP weekend with an error-free run during the 90mins session clocking up 113-miles.
Having set the fourth fastest time in F2 practice, Norris went on to qualify fifth quickest on Friday afternoon for yesterday’s 25-lap Feature Race. Spa’s notoriously fickle and unpredictable weather had played a part in F1 qualifying earlier but the rain had stopped as the 20-car grid lined-up with only a few damp patches remaining, the sun shining again in nevertheless cool conditions. Norris brilliantly grabbed fourth at the start, braving out three-abreast on the run up Kemmel Straight, and made his compulsory pit-stop with eight laps completed. At mid-distance, he remained fourth in relation to the cars that were on the same strategy while the Safety Car was deployed on lap 15, Norris fourth with all stops having been completed. The race resumed with seven laps to go, Lando battling with series leader George Russell for third but ultimately had to defend his fourth place on the final lap.
Lando lined-up fifth for the 18-lap Sprint race around the fast, sweeping 4.35-mile track featuring huge elevation changes this morning with the sun shining but again in very cool weather conditions. Having momentarily snatched fourth at the start, Norris dropped behind Artem Markelov but moved ahead of the Russian on the fifth lap and moved in to third two laps later. He gradually closed the gap on second-placed Nyck de Vries and grabbed the place on the final lap. Norris is back in both F1 and F2 action at the historic Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Italy next weekend (31 Aug-2 Sep). Lando will take the wheel of a McLaren MCL33 again in Friday’s 90-minute Free Practice 1 around the 3.6-mile track located in the Royal Villa of Monza park near the city of Milan. He then reverts back to his Carlin Dallara for the 30 and 21-lap Feature and Sprint races respectively. The BRDC SuperStar has previously won races at Monza in Formulae Renault (2016) and 3 (2017).
“An awesome if very busy weekend! I was testing various aero elements in the F1 session and couldn’t really show my true pace with no ‘max’ attack laps but it was a good, fun session overall. It was about me doing consistent runs and giving the engineers good feedback to help them for the rest of the weekend. It was a fantastic experience to drive a F1 car around Spa. It was then tricky jumping into the F2 car for practice less than 30mins later, a slower car with a lot less performance in all areas. It took me time to readjust and I was quite surprised I was P4 as it felt really slow and weird. My first push lap in qually was pretty reasonable, a couple of tenths off but good enough for P2 which then became P3. Then I didn’t do a perfect lap on my second run, making a mistake under braking at the final chicane.
“I made a decent start in the Feature race, making up a place on the inside into La Source, but it was a tough, long race with not a lot happening and I never felt I had the outright pace. I had one real chance to get ahead of George [Russell] after the Safety Car but was too far back. The most difficult part of the race was getting around the guys on the alternate [tyre] strategy. We made changes to the car after yesterday’s race. I was clear in the direction I wanted to take it and was confident between Carlin and I, it would make a difference and that proved to be the case. Nyck was extremely fast yesterday but my car’s set-up was good and I felt confident. The last couple of laps were difficult as I needed to get past Nyck but not take too much out of the tyres causing me to drop behind Alex and Artem. Thankfully it all worked out.
“Monza is a cool and fun track. The combination of really low downforce, some big braking zones from fast corners plus a lot of slipstreaming normally produces great racing. I’ve had fun there previously in Renaults and F3 and I’m sure it’ll be the same in an F2 car. Qualifying is normally really difficult due to the slip streaming which is a benefit but can also screw you over quite badly. It’s a mix of trying to get a clear lap in and also a tow which can make a big difference.”