Lando Norris has finished second in the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship after placing second and fifth in the final two races in Abu Dhabi this weekend (24-25 Nov).
Lando, who celebrated his 19thbirthday earlier this month ( 13 Nov), scored 20 top-10 point-scoring finishes – including nine podiums in the 24-race, 12-event series – his first full F2 season having made his category début at the Yas Marina track in the corresponding event 12 months ago. He led the title battle after winning the opening race in April until midway through the series in July. 2018 marks the first year since 2011 that Norris has not won a championship such has been his phenomenal rise in motorsport having impressively amassed 11 titles during this period. Norris steps up to Formula 1 with McLaren next year having been the British team’s Test and Reserve Driver this year, a role which has seen him contest seven Friday F1 Free Practice sessions this season. He stays on in Abu Dhabi to test the McLaren on Tuesday.
Lando was back behind the wheel of his Carlin F2 machine on Friday for the first time in almost eight weeks having clocked up 275-miles in the McLaren MCL33 in four F1 practice sessions since his last F2 race in Sochi (30 Sep), an event which marked his first retirements of the season and only occasion Norris failed to score over a race weekend all year. The BRDC SuperStar was eighth quickest in Fee Practice (1m 52.611s) then posted the seventh fastest time in qualifying (1:50.059s) around the 3.45-mile track in the 30mins session under floodlights early on Friday evening.
Starting yesterday evening’s Feature race from the fourth row of the 20-car grid, Norris grabbed fifth place despite a stalled car on row two but a subsequent start-line shunt caused a Safety Car phase lasting until lap five. Lando immediately battled for fourth at the re-start and made his compulsory pit-stop for tyres with nine laps completed. He was fifth on lap 11 after a spectacular double overtake, gained another place two laps later but was back in fifth with 22mins remaining when he lost front-end grip – a position he retained to the chequered flag after 29-laps and a result that earned Carlin the Teams’ Championship title.
Norris began his last F2 race from the second row of the grid today and brilliantly snatched third place on lap two before a brief Virtual Safety Car due to an on-track incident. Lando pressed for second place on lap six before dropping back to “manage” his front tyres. He closed in again on the second-placed car in the closing stages of the 21-lap race, no DRS assistance effecting the entire field, Lando was unaided when he spectacularly snatched the runner-up spot on the last lap, less than two seconds behind the winner, to claim second place in the final Drivers’ points-standings.
“Second place today is a good end to the season. It’s a pity I couldn’t win the Driver’s title in my fourth and last year with Carlin but at least I helped them win the Teams’ championship. I’ve enjoyed racing with them and it’s been a really good journey which I’ll always be thankful for. It felt a bit weird back in the F2 car again for practice and it took me a few laps to readjust and get back into some kind of rhythm for driving this car after the McLaren. I didn’t manage to put a great lap together.
Qualifying that evening was tricky, the track [conditions] had changed a lot from practice with more rubber down but less temperature. I had difficultly getting heat in and the rears were locking up. We made a small tweak to the rear wing on my second tyre run but then made a mistake under braking at the end of the long straight. That was annoying because the tyres are at their best on the first push lap.
I was lucky to avoid the stalled car on the grid of the Feature race and managed to get a couple of positions before the Safety Car. My pace was pretty good after my stop but pretty quickly my fronts [tyres] went, totally destroyed which was a shame as my rears were really good.
I was happy with second place in today’s Sprint race. We made a few tweaks to the car overnight as today’s race run in the afternoon was always going to be in hotter conditions. I decided to drop back to save my front tyres which allowed me to come back in the closing laps and force Merhi into a mistake and grab second.”