"I was protecting P2," admits Norris


Like race leader Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris opted to "play it smart" in the final stages of the Singapore Grand Prix.

While Charles Leclerc had shadowed Sainz in the early stages of the race, the Monegasque eventually lost out to George Russell due to the fact he was essentially 'sacrificed' by his team and then suffered a disastrous pit stop.

Russell took up the challenge after that but then lost out to Norris when Mercedes played its trump card, pitting both its drivers under the VSC for the fresh set of mediums saved from Saturday.

Whilst shadowing the race leader, Norris now found himself under attack from the Silver Arrows, but like the Spaniard he took full advantage of DRS.

Asked about his priority in those final laps, the McLaren driver was in no doubt.

"It was protecting P2," he said. "George struggled to overtake me when he had a five, six-tenth second per lap advantage, so the chance of me getting ahead of Carlos with a maybe one-tenth advantage... there was no chance.

"I think, like Carlos, I played it smart," he continued. "There was no need for me to try and attack him. The more I attacked him, probably the more vulnerable I would have been from both the guys behind. I wouldn't be sitting here and wouldn't have been on the podium if I had played it different."

Like the Mercedes pair, the Briton had considered pitting under the VSC but thought better of it considering the nature of the track and the resultant difficulty in overtaking.

"If it was a safety car, we would have boxed, but a VSC, no," he said. "I think on paper, and if there was no traffic to overtake, the Mercedes strategy was way, way faster. If we weren't in the way, they'd have been 10 seconds ahead of us quite easily.

"There's always the task of overtaking, which in Singapore is one of the hardest tasks," he continued. "With a couple of those attacks from George, I think it put his tyres a little bit over the edge, and he didn't attack me as much after that main attack that he did.

"It's always a difficult challenge here, the management, and looking after the tyre. You're a bit dictated by the guys ahead of you and looking in the mirrors of the guys behind you.

"We did a perfect pitstop to get ahead of Charles, and a perfect strategy to get ahead of the Mercedes as well.

"Carlos was very generous trying to help me get DRS," he said of his former teammate. "It helped my race and also helped his. We knew it was going to be tough as soon as the Mercedes boxed, especially with only a couple of cars for them to overtake. But we're on the podium, P2, we held them off. We did everything we needed to do and more. So I'm super happy."

Of course, Russell's race ended in heart-break when he hit the wall at Turn 10 on the final lap and went off into the barriers. But it was only after the race that Norris revealed that he too had hit the offending wall.

"I hit the wall at the same lap... the last lap... the same place," he revealed. "I think he copied me and just did it even worse.

"I hit it with the front, so I kind of panicked a bit, thinking I'd maybe just messed it all up. It damaged the steering, it was off-centre, but luckily it was nothing more than that.

"I feel for him," he said of Russell. "He fought a tough race, he was the quickest today, I would say. It helped me a bit. The last couple of corners, I could chill just a little bit more."

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Published: 18/09/2023
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