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Lando Norris

Norris now faces biggest test of F1 career after shaking win monkey

Lando Norris now has the monkey off his back and is a Formula 1 race winner. Now he faces the hard bit and must kick on.

Norris China
Analysis
To news overview © XPBimages

After claiming victory, at the 110th attempt in the Miami Grand Prix, Lando Norris took aim at his critics. 

In his firing line were those who used the 2021 Russian Grand Prix as the albtross around his neck and the 'Lando no-wins' term bandied about by those on social media whose hope of controlling a racing edge on the edge at 200mph ranges from somewhere between zero and none. 

"You're under pressure. You're racing people. People crash into you. You get frustrated, and of course, you're going to say things, things that people don't like, things that others do," he told media including RacingNews365.

"One thing I've always had and I will always have is respect for the people I race against, as much as, yeah, sometimes things make you not want to have it. I've always had respect for everyone I race against, from the top to the bottom of every category that I've gone through since karting, I've always had respect for my competitors and the people I raced against. 

"You're always going to have people that don't support you and people that do. When you're out there on the podium, there's a lot of people out there cheering you on and waving and congratulating, [but] anyone can say what they want. I'm always for that. People don't need to like me. They don't need to support me. I'm not always asking for those types of things. 

"But yeah, when people doubt me in certain situations, you want to prove them wrong. You want to go out and prove them wrong. They think they know what they're talking about and when you prove that they don't, then that's a nice thing to go out and do it. 

"I wanted to say like the Valtteri [Bottas] line ‘to whom it may concern’, but I was like: 'that's copyrighted’, so I didn't want to repeat it but it's just nice to just go out there and do my job and show people what I'm capable of."

Place among the elite

And show people what he's capable of Norris certainly has since McLaren first introduced its steady stream of upgrades in Austria last season. 

Since that race, he has claimed 10 podiums, two sprint poles and finally that elusive grand prix win and delivered on the speed that has always been there but just needed a spot of fine-tuning to the white-hot environment found at the head of the F1 field. 

He has been on an upward curve and is now rightly considered as one of elites on the grid, joining the likes of Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc as the best of the best. 

But for his impressive form in races and knowing when to pick his battles or just settle for the best result on the day, there has been a sizeable chunk in Norris's armour: his qualifying. 

Granted, the McLaren has not been a regular contender for front-row or pole position starts over the last year, but it and Norris have had opportunities in qualifying- as the driver himself points out. 

Norris's qualifying problem

"I kind of want to say I don't think there was a Sunday where I've thrown away maybe a podium or a P2, but I think every opportunity where I've been there to try and take a win, I've been there," he said. 

"There was one opportunity, and this was Qatar last year. To win the main race was maybe a bit more of an ask. I don't know what Max’s gap to Oscar [Piastri] was and I was like five or six seconds behind. But as a sprint race, the sprint race was the loss."

This was down to starting second in the sprint to Piastri having made a mistake at the final corner in the shootout, ending up closer to downtown Lusail than the track. To further compound Norris's misery, he was leading after the first runs. He was purple in sector 1 on that second lap, before the rookie pipped him by 0.082s. 

In Abu Dhabi Q3, Norris had a step through the hotel section that arguably cost him a second-row slot, leaving him down in fifth instead of a comfortable third. 

But that being said, he did pull out an outstanding lap in the worsening conditions in China to grab a second straight sprint pole after his first in Sao Paulo last year.

Arguably, probably, he should have made it three in a row having had the pace with the new upgrades in Miami, but a shocking Sector 1 on his final lap in sprint qualifying put pay to those hopes. 

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Head in the game

Norris is a confidence driver and has been open and vocal in the past about his battles with mental health, including during his time in F1. 

He has all the ingredients needed to succeed in F1, and has shown them all at different times. 

He is exquisite in race-craft and a fair wheel-to-wheel racer who has shown he can consistently bag in podium after podium and can leave the reigning world champion and established 'man to beat' for dust. 

He has shown flashes of qualifying speed, but never has he put the complete package together over a weekend. 

Now he has the monkey of that first win off his back, with a rapidly improving McLaren, Norris now faces the toughest test of all. 

To be an elite driver, you must beat the elite week in, week out. He's beaten Verstappen week in, now the onus is on to put a complete weekend together and do it week out as well.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

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