NORRIS RETAINS F2 CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD AFTER DOUBLE PODIUM Lando heads to next event in Monaco with a 13-points lead Lando Norris retained his FIA Formula 2 Championship lead when the McLaren Test & Reserve driver recorded two third placings in Barcelona this weekend (12-13 May). The 18-year-old will start the next race at Monte Carlo later this month with a 13-points lead advantage after six of this season’s 24 races.
The recently re-surfaced 2.9-mile Circuit de Barcelona in Catalunya features a mix of high and low-speed corners, is physically demanding for the driver and mechanically hard on the car. Fifth fastest in a wind-gust affected FP1 (1m29.991s) on Friday morning, Lando was disappointed with himself to post only the eighth fastest time in qualifying later that afternoon (1:28.923).
Norris began Saturday’s Feature race from the fourth row of the 20-car grid – the first time the BRDC SuperStar had not set a front row time in qualifying this season – the race staged in unseasonably cool, overcast and breezy conditions with spots of rain falling at the start. Despite a car suddenly stalling directly in front of him at the green light, Lando completed lap one in fifth after a bold move into Turn 1 and pitted at the end of lap 16, his front left “soft” compound tyre well-worn. With all of the of the compulsory pit-stops completed, good strategy from Carlin on the pit-wall combined with consistently fast and aggressive lappery, Norris lay a stunning third – finishing just 0.724secs behind the second-placed car and only a further second off the winner in the timed one-hour race due to four separate “Virtual Safety Car” periods cutting the race one-lap short of the scheduled distance.
Overnight rain and earlier showers had cleared for today’s Sprint race but Norris started from the damper side of the “reverse” grid in sixth place causing him to drop to seventh at Turn 1. However, he was up to fourth at the end of lap one and was third after a short VSC prior to a Safety Car period. Lando was challenging for second place with 30mins to run but mysteriously and crucially lost time as the race resumed after a second VSC. Lando, who ultimately finished third in the 26-lap, 75-mile race just 2.864secs behind the winner, is now the only driver to have scored points in all six races this season. Before the next FIA F2 Championship event in Monaco (25-26 May), Norris gets his third taste of a McLaren F1 car following runs in Hungary and Abu Dhabi last season when he tests the MCL33 on Tuesday and Wednesday this week (15-16 May).
Lando Norris (GB): Born: Bristol, England. Aged 18.
“A good but not an ideal weekend overall. Two podiums and more points is good especially from where we started both races. I felt I wasn’t driving well while at the same time struggling with the car on Friday in practice and qualifying. Conditions were pretty tricky with the wind gusting but overall I made too many mistakes. I had to abort my first run when I came up to Sergio [Sette Camara] who had a problem and was going slowly. I thought I could improve on my second run, which I did, but nowhere near enough. I also made a mistake on my second push lap, locked the fronts and had to abort.
“The start of the Feature race was difficult. Luckily, I had angled my car slightly to the left, so I was just able to avoid Latifi who stalled at the green directly in front of me, dived down the inside of Turn 1 and had gained three places at the end of the first lap. My pace was good in the opening laps before my [soft] tyres dropped [grip] so it was a case of managing them until the stop. Aitken undercut me but I pushed hard and got ahead of him. Russell and De Vries went longer on their mediums and came out of the pits just ahead of me. I tried to maximise the grip I had with my warmer tyres but I couldn’t get quite close enough. I didn’t get DRS on the start-finish straight which was annoying but their pace was good on their ‘softs’. Perhaps another lap I would have had a chance at going for P2 but it was a good, fun race, and I was pleased with P3 from where we started and to collect more points.
“The Sprint race start was tough as it was still wet on my side of the grid which caused a lot of wheelspin. The opening laps were tricky but my pace was good. I lost loads of time through no fault of my own after one of the VSCs for some reason, undoing the hard work of pushing the tyres which was very annoying. Overtaking was still difficult as off line the track was still slippery and I didn’t want to risk anything. Again, I’m happy with a podium and more points. From here on, we need to start the weekends in a stronger position rather than playing catch-up.”