Wonderkid to the real deal: Lando Norris ‘made the next step as a driver’ in Imola, says McLaren boss

The Briton put on an impressive performance on his way to the podium at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

By Yuri Coghe
Lando Norris started seventh and finished third to get his second career podium (Photo: Lando Norris/Twitter)

When it’s all said and done for Lando Norris, people might look back at the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and say that was the turning point for the Briton. At least that’s what McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl thinks.

Even though the 21-year-old suffered a setback on qualifying by having a lap time that would see him start third deleted for exceeding track limits, Norris eventually thrived in the race by getting a second career podium under tricky conditions.

“Lando is flying at the moment,” said a very proud Seidl after the race. “He’s definitely made the next step as a driver, so just happy for the whole team that he could score this P3 today”.

“It’s normal also that these young guys make steps, especially in these first years. They have to make it, otherwise, they will never make it to the top, but it’s just great how he’s pulling it off.”

Not only did Norris showed great pace to storm from seventh to second in the race, dropping back to third on the last few laps after being overtaken by championship leader Lewis Hamilton, but he was also able to overcome the Saturday disappointment.

“I’m happy, it was a nice recovery after yesterday,” Norris said after the race. “It was a long race, a tough one. I didn’t start so well and I came back through with good pace. I tried hanging on to second but Lewis was a bit too quick for me today. It’s nice to be fighting these guys. It’s nice to be there on merit and pure pace and hopefully we can have some more in the future.”

Former McLaren driver and fellow Briton Hamilton replied to Norris on Saturday with words of encouragement after the youngster took to Twitter to apologize to McLaren for exceeding track limits, therefore fumbling his attempt to start higher on the grid. See below.

Seeing out tires

There was more to Norris’ Imola performance than showing great pace and clinching a podium finish.

McLaren gave him soft tires for the lap 35 restart after the red flag caused by the accident between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, while every other driver in the top10 at that point had medium compounds. Norris then proceeded to carry out the not-so-easy mission to complete the remaining 30 laps with the softer rubber.

“A great call from the team, putting the soft tyres on at the restart,” said Seidl. “It was a bit of a gamble, and we weren’t sure really if it would work out until the end. But it worked out so a great call from the team as well.”

A new signing at McLaren after two years with Renault, Daniel Ricciardo finished three positions behind teammate Norris. “In the end, sixth from a points point of view is alright, but certainly my race pace wasn’t anything to do cartwheels over,” he said after the race.

The Australian driver received team orders to let a faster Norris through, allowing the Briton to eventually rise to the podium.

“Lando had really strong pace all weekend and obviously put it on the podium today, so I take encouragement from that. I’m certainly not defeated by that, and I’m certainly going to accept where I’m at at the moment and just work on it. I’m not going to let pride or ego get in the way. It is race two of 23, the road is long and I’ll just keep my chin up and work on it.”

Further listening: PODCAST l The Chicane Crew Podcast reviews the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

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