Lando Norris sealed a champion rookie season in Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup to take the team title for Josef Kaufmann Racing, tackling a turbulent weekend head on, the newly crowned Eurocup champion proved his pace with a final trip to the podium at Estoril.
Carved into the rocky Portuguese terrain, the 4.182 km long Autódromo do Estoril offered a fresh new challenge to the Eurocup champion. With two hairpin turns, a long straight and some tough elevation changes to tackle, Lando was quick to master the twisty track, putting himself on pole position for the first race.
With the driver’s championship nicely sealed up at Spa last month, Lando was perfectly placed for a final haul of points, to clinch the team title for Josef Kaufmann Racing.
Storming from pole…
With a greasy track for race one, Lando wisely sat shy of his grid slot, keen to spin as much heat into the tyres in the formation lap. On the edge of our seats as the lights went out, the wise tactic paid off as the champion powered off the line, pulling a gap into turn 1. Having just caught our breath from the thrill of a standing start, Lando then had to master a safety car restart. Expertly holding back, he powered full-throttle down the pit straight at just the right time, unleashing his Formula Renault 2.0 charger ahead of the pack into turn 1.
Undeterred by the cars flying off the track behind him, Lando was on a charge, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 4. With the win in sight, we were geared up for a gallant battle to the flag as Defourny charged to pressure Lando in the closing stages of the race. Lando’s supreme defending skills came into play as he narrowly managed to keep the Belgian behind as the clock ticked down. Exploring every inch of the track to pull out a gap, pulses were racing on the pit wall as the greasy track sent Lando sliding into the final corner, bringing Defourny back on his tail.
In a final lap duel down the pit straight, and sensing a victory, Defourny made a dash up the inside of Lando going into turn 1, seeing the two rivals come together and be wiped out to the back of the pack. With a disappointing end to the penultimate race, Lando and the team reset focus on Sunday’s action.
"Both restarts were very good and I managed to get a gap very quickly, I didn't have the pace compared to Defourny so he was catching me the last few laps. I led onto the last lap but defended too late, with a gap open he managed to get to the inside, then I felt contact putting me out of the race."
Rain on the victory parade…
A rain-drenched circuit awaited on Sunday morning, qualifying third in treacherous conditions, the downpour didn’t dampen the spirit of the 16-year-old heading into a wet race two. With full-wet tyres beneath him, he closed his visor for the final time of the Eurocup season, fully focussed on chasing the win.
Struggling for grip off the line, Chaves clinched the advantage on the first lap, but honing his sharp skill Lando ramped up his attack. Laying down the gauntlet, with fastest lap after fastest lap, it wasn’t long until we were treated to another fearless battle with Defourny.
Sweeping in the inside and outside lines, searching for a way passed the Belgian, wisely biding his time on the slippery track. An inspired move, grappling with grip, raised many smiles in the team as Lando finally snatched second. Charging to the line, Lando gave it his all to challenge for the win, the lap count just cutting short his efforts.
“I got a pretty good start, but Chaves had an even better one. The track was drying, so I tried to not use my tyres up to much on the opening laps. But I didn’t give up, and managed to do fastest lap after fastest lap closing down the gap to Max. I wasn't able to quite get close enough to make a move, but I’m very happy with 2nd”
We are the Champions!
It was high fives and sore voices all round, as an impressive tally of 5 wins and 12 podiums over a thrilling campaign clinched both driver’s and team championship titles or Josef Kaufmann Racing.
The hard work of the whole team rewarded, the victory juice in full flow, Lando on the podium, a great way to celebrate the end of a fantastic season.
“To win both championships is amazing! I want to thank the team for this season. They allowed me to have a season that passed all my expectations in Formula Renault 2.0.”
Lando now looks to his next challenge around the twisting streets of Macau on the 19th & 20th November.