Lando Norris ‘fighting a losing battle’ after Ferrari tussle

Lando Norris admits he was “fighting a losing battle” with McLaren unable to match the pace of Ferrari during Sunday’s intriguing tactical battle at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Norris started third on the grid behind the winning Red Bull pairing of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, one spot ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and five ahead of Charles Leclerc.

However, the superior race pace of the Ferrari quickly showed, with Sainz overtaking Norris in the latter stages of the race while Leclerc kept his Scuderia ahead after pursuing a successful one-stop strategy.

Norris eventually finished fifth, with Sainz completing the podium and Leclerc in fourth.

“It was a tough race,” a downbeat Norris told Sky F1 afterwards. “Compared to the Ferraris, just not enough. I think everything fell back in line in terms of Red Bull, Ferrari and us.

“It’s a shame. It doesn’t feel great when you start third and go backwards. It feels like you are fighting a losing battle against these guys because they can just do a lot more. They can go longer and extend and have a bigger tyre delta. It’s hard to fight.

“We gave it a good shot and did what we could. We got the maximum points apart from the top two teams, which was all we could do.”

Norris vocalised his surprise at following Leclerc into the pits for his second pit stop over team radio at the time, with McLaren keen to cover the threat posed by Mercedes’s George Russell.

Lando Norris finished fifth in Japan having started the race in third (Getty)
Lando Norris finished fifth in Japan having started the race in third (Getty)

“Charles did a good job to go that far on one set of tyres. It surprised me we boxed as early as we did because that put us in line with what Ferrari did,” Norris added.

“We covered George, which I think we didn’t need to do. This is something we will discuss after in the briefing. Maybe a discussion, if we could have done a better job for P4 but it’s always difficult to make those decisions at the time, so tough.

“Ferrari is clearly ahead. They have been ahead all year. They are still ahead. We’ve not changed anything all year so there’s no reason we should be ahead.”

Norris’ teammate Oscar Piastri could not keep Russell behind him and eventually finished eighth, though ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

After the first four races of the season, Norris is currently fifth in the drivers’ championship – 40 points behind leader Verstappen.