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Lando Norris

Norris laughs off Verstappen Japanese GP complaint

Max Verstappen feels there is a question mark over Red Bull's Japanese GP race pace. Lando Norris has scoffed at the suggestion.

Norris McLaren Saudi Arabia 2024
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Lando Norris has laughed off the claim of Max Verstappen that his Red Bull will lack race pace for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Norris emerged best of the rest in qualifying at Suzuka behind a 27th Red Bull front-row lock-out, spearheaded by Verstappen who finished 0.066s ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez.

McLaren driver Norris finished just under three-tenths of a second adrift of Verstappen, halving the deficit to the Dutchman compared to just under seven months ago at the same circuit when he again started third.

Verstappen, though, has made clear he is worried by the race pace of his RB20, suggesting there is "a bit of question mark" in that area going into the 53-lap event.

Norris, though, was forced to scoff. He said: "They [Red Bull] complain about their race pace, but I don't think they've had a bad race in the last four, five years! So they're going to be good tomorrow.

"Of course, we've got a lot of pressure from behind, we have to keep an eye on the mirrors. But at the same time, I want to go forward, and we have the pace to stay where we are. That's my goal."

Norris would at least be content with a repeat of what unfolded at the start of last year's race, adding: "I was side by side with Max into Turn 1, so hopefully try to redo that. But it's tricky. They're quick."

The Briton would like to think he could give the Red Bulls a run for their money but recognises he faces a battle to do so.

"We proved last year, when we were further away from them, that we could keep in touch and not be miles behind, so that will be our target," said Norris.

"Realistically, we're still too far away to challenge them. They're too quick for us. Yes, we are quick in quali, but in the race they normally always pull away a bit more.

"So we'll be realistic, I'm always realistic when I say it, our competition is the guys behind, but at the same time I'll do my best to push forward."

The overall positive for Norris is the improvement made by McLaren in closing the gap to Red Bull, with Suzuka providing the perfect comparison considering the last race at the circuit was in September.

Albeit a McLaren track, Norris would like to believe there is a platform on which the team can build.

"It was close between many people - us, Mercedes, Aston, Ferrari, but they [Ferrari] didn't seem to quite have the advantage as the last few weekends," assessed Norris.

"Between eight cars we knew it was going to be tricky, so to come out on top, behind the fastest two, is a good job by us, so I'm happy.

"If we look back to where we were last year, or even further away, I think five-tenths off of pole, and this is the first track we've come back to which is where we had our upgrades last season.

"It's our best comparison of how we've improved over the winter, and we're quite a bit closer, so that's a very good sign."

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