Lando Norris signed off from the Formula 3 category in great style today (19 Nov) when the British teenager brought his Carlin prepared Dallara-Volkswagen home second in a thrilling and eventful Macau Grand Prix
Having started seventh on the 21-car grid in what is considered the “blue riband” F3 race of the year, Norris came home 0.568secs behind the winner of the 15-lap Suncity Group Formula 3 Macau GP around the mainly tight and twisting, temporary 3.8-mile Circuito da Guia "street" track. The McLaren Young Driver who becomes the Formula One team’s reserve and test driver next year, had recorded seventh place in yesterday’s Qualifying Race.
Norris, who became the youngest FIA Formula 3 European Champion in history this year, signs off from the F3 category with impressive statistics. Having made his F3 début at the end of last year – which included finishing 11th from a back of the grid start in the corresponding Macau GP – Lando has recorded 20 front row starts, including eight poles, 20 podiums including nine wins plus eight fastest race laps in his 32 races in 2017.
Lando, who turned 18-years-old last week (13 Nov), arrived earlier than scheduled in Macau after his planned Formula 1 tyre test with McLaren at Interlagos last Tuesday (14 Nov) was cancelled due to safety concerns at the Brazilian Grand Prix venue. Having arrived in São Paulo from London last Monday morning, the BRDC SuperStar flew to Paris later that day, arriving in Hong Kong via Shanghai on Wednesday afternoon allowing him to be present for the opening practice the following day.
Practice saw Norris place eighth fastest prior to clocking the quickest time (2m 11.570s) in first qualifying on Thursday afternoon. In Friday morning’s practice, Lando was seventh and was then deprived of pole-position by a mere 0.024s in final qualifying, Norris stopping the clock at 2:10.744. Starting the 10-lap Qualification Race yesterday morning from the front row, Lando suffered a clutch issue and completed lap one in ninth place. By lap seven, he had recovered to fifth, setting the second fastest race lap, but was then hindered by lack of [tyre] grip in the closing stages causing him to drop a place on the final two laps to take the chequered flag in seventh.
Norris began the 64th running of the prestigious Grand Prix this afternoon from the fourth row of the grid, the track having completely dried after overnight and morning rain. He made up a place on the opening lap before a Full Course Yellow on lap two and was in to fourth when the race briefly resumed before the race went into a Safety Car phase. Norris challenged hard for third place from the re-start but with two laps remaining, was demoted to fourth after four cars headed in to Lisboa Corner side-by-side. The drama continued with Norris taking the chequered flag in second when the two leading cars crashed at the final corner.
Norris now focusses on making his FIA Formula 2 Championship début with Campos Racing at the 3.44-mile Yas Marina Circuit next weekend (24-26 Nov). Practice (1130-1215 local) and qualifying (1900-1930) is held on Friday (24 Nov) with the 60mins (or 31-lap) “feature race”, which includes a compulsory pit-stop to change tyres, starting at 1840 on Saturday (25 Nov), A 45mins (or 28-lap) “sprint” race, where no pit-stops are allowed, is on Sunday (26 Nov) at 1400.
“I came to Macau to win and finish off what has been a phenomenally successful F3 season on a high so I’m a little disappointed having only achieved second place especially as Carlin gave me a great car – as they have done all season. It’s been an enjoyable weekend and brings to an end a long week. I’d been at my São Paulo hotel last Monday for only a couple of hours and was reading the [MCL32] steering wheel manual when I was informed by McLaren that the F1 tyre test was cancelled. It was disappointing but the decision was made for the right reasons. Flights were quickly changed and after travelling from Brazil to Macau via Paris, Shanghai and Hong Kong, I finally got to the track on Wednesday afternoon after 33 hours of travelling.
“I was pretty tired on Thursday but ended up on provisional ‘pole’ after fitting two new tyres. That was a big step forward but in general I wasn’t hooked up 100%. I was disappointed not to get ‘pole’ for the qualifying race. I made a big mistake on my ‘push’ lap and then the tyres were no longer in a condition for me to mount a challenge. I had a clutch problem off the line at the start of yesterday’s Qualification Race and I dropped to ninth. My pace was pretty good, making up places but then the tyres went off and I lost a couple of positions. Second place in today’s GP is okay but credit to winner Dan [Ticktum] who did a great move on me as I challenged Maxi [Günther] for third going in to Lisboa.
“I now turn my attention to Abu Dhabi and making my F2 race début next weekend and I can’t wait! To race an F2 car and at such an amazing venue is super cool. Saturday’s 60mins race will be the longest race I’ve ever done since I started racing. The duration, the physical aspect of racing a larger and more powerful car to the ones I’ve been used to combined with the heat in Abu Dhabi, and under floodlights, will make it a challenge but I’ve been training hard in preparation so don’t envisage any difficulties. Bring it on – I’m just super excited!”