Lando pays dearly for technical glitch with clutch in opening French race
Lando Norris heads for the next FIA Formula 2 Championship event at the Red Bull Ring in Austria next weekend (29 Jun-01 Jul) with a 13-points series lead and determined to return to winning ways. The 18-year-old was an innocent victim of the car’s particularly troublesome hand-operated clutch which has now caused the majority of the drivers in the 20-car field to stall at the start of races – yesterday’s Feature race marking the first time Norris had failed to score a championship point. The McLaren Test & Reserve driver impressively battled his Carlin entered Dallara into fifth place from the back of the grid in today’s Sprint race at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet.
The BRDC SuperStar had lined-up in third-place – knocked off the front-row in the final two-minutes of qualifying the previous evening – for the 30-lap Feature Race yesterday evening with a 27-point series lead. But like so many of his rivals in the previous eight races, Norris stalled due to a technical issue with the clutch – his race ruined through no fault of his own and his series lead slashed to a mere 7pts. Lining up 16thfor today’s 21-lap Sprint Race on the 3.63-mile French track, featuring a chicane on the Mistral straight, Norris completed the opening lap in 10th, moved up another place the following lap, and was seventh by lap 8 and battling for fifth – a position he impressively secured on the penultimate lap of the 76-mile race.
Next weekend Norris competes at the Red Bull Ring. He raced at the 2.6-mile Austrian venue for the first time in July 2016, recording a win from pole-position in his championship winning Formula Renault EuroCup season. In his three FIA F3 European Championship races last September, Lando scored a fourth, second (and fastest lap) then challenged for the lead in the final race to wrap-up the title when contact was made with five-laps remaining tearing off the car’s end-plate. The third-placed car then “locked up” on the penultimate lap punting Norris in to the gravel trap. Norris ultimately became the youngest FIA Formula 3 European Champion in history with two races remaining at the following Hockenheim event.
Lando Norris (GB): Born: Bristol, England. Aged 18.
“Overall this weekend I lost out quite a bit in terms of points. I had a start problem on Saturday and Feature race winner George [Russell] had an issue today. These things are annoying because it’s not just down to our racing but niggling technical issues. FP1 on Friday morning was pretty decent and got through the things we had planned and needed to do. With the surface changes, some parts were grippier than others, even going through the same corner, so it took a few laps to adjust and get used to it. But I put in a decent lap to go P1. We then concentrated on a longer run with a heavier fuel load and that felt pretty good. My first run in qualifying that evening was terrible, the balance was all over the place, and I struggled massively and was P9 over a second off provisional pole. The team made quite a few changes on the car halfway through the session which improved the handling.
“The Feature race yesterday was a disaster. Leaving the collecting area I stalled three times and then for the actual start of the race, I didn’t do anything different from what I’ve done in the previous races without any issues, and it stalled again. I eventually got going at the back and was so far behind that we just tried random things for the remainder of the race but essentially I struggled all race. The opening laps today were good, overtaking a couple while I gained another couple of places due to stallers. I maximized the opportunities that I had and my pace was good. Coming from the back for a fifth place and some points was pretty pleasing after yesterday.
“I’m excited to go back to the Red Bull Ring. It’s a track I’ve had really good races on in the past but my last one was not so good. I won in [Formula] Renault and had a second in F3 last year – but the third race didn’t quite work out. It’s quite tough but overall a good one for racing so looking forward to that aspect the most. After most corners generally there’s a longish straight so there is a lot of time to be lost or gained on the brakes – making a mistake is pretty easy.”