Lando Norris despondent after ‘bad start’ costs him victory in Spain

Lando Norris said he “f***** up the start” to Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix – a race the McLaren driver claimed he should “easily have won”.

Norris’ late surge at the Circuit de Catalunya was not enough to stop Max Verstappen claiming a seventh win of the season and extending his championship lead to 69 points.

Norris finished behind Verstappen to elevate him to second in the standings for the first time in his Formula One career.

But the Briton was left to rue another missed opportunity, after he felt a poor strategy call cost him victory at the rain-hit round in Canada a fortnight ago.

Norris delivered the lap of his life to beat Verstappen to pole, but the 24-year-old was on the back foot when he dropped from first to third after the 200mph stampede to the opening corner.

McLaren put Norris on a different strategy in a bid to usurp his rivals, and, despite taking six seconds out of Verstappen’s lead following the final round of pit-stops, Norris never got close to threatening the Dutchman.

Norris’ race engineer, Will Jarvis, congratulated his driver for finishing second and recording the fastest lap.

“It doesn’t matter,” replied a despondent Norris over the radio. “I should have won. I f***** up the start. Car was amazing. Deserved more.”

With his crash helmet now off, Norris’ mood had not improved. “Not could have (won),” he said. “Should have won. I got a bad start. Simple as that. The car was incredible. We were the quickest today and I lost it at the beginning.

“There are a lot of positives to take from this weekend, and one negative ruined everything. I know that and I need to work it out for next time. The race was not good enough, simply because I should have won.”

Norris’ remarks wreaked of deja-vu following his near-miss in Montreal. Leading the rain-hit race, a delayed pit stop under safety car conditions cost him a probable win.

Norris’ McLaren team were at fault for failing to get their strategy on point then, but on Sunday, Norris said, possibly harshly, that he had no-one but himself to blame.

“For sure it is more frustrating here because that was an incorrect decision (by the team) in Montreal. We didn’t have the quickest car there, but today I did, and I didn’t maximise it. The start is down to me. I easily should have won.”

Lando Norris gives a thumbs-up to the Spanish crowd
Lando Norris felt he should have been celebrating victory (Joan Monfort/AP)

Norris launched an aggressive move to cover off Verstappen on the long drag to the opening corner, but over on the other side of the track, George Russell snuck under the radar.

Starting fourth, Russell blasted clear of a slow-starting Lewis Hamilton before assuming the slipstream of Norris and Verstappen and sling-shotting his Mercedes into the lead. Norris also lost out to Verstappen, with the Dutchman more daring on the brakes.

Verstappen swooped past Russell on the third lap with Norris then stuck in a Mercedes sandwich.

As his rivals stopped for fresh rubber, Norris elected to stay out. Conscious of the speed in his McLaren, Norris was asked if he wanted to cover off Russell. “I think we need to go and get Max,” he said.

Six laps after Verstappen stopped, Norris was in for fresh, medium tyres. He emerged in sixth, promoted one place to fifth when Charles Leclerc pitted, before he was on Hamilton’s gearbox by lap 31.

Norris cruised ahead of his countryman to take fourth, and on lap 35, Norris went wheel-to-wheel with the other Mercedes machine.

Norris launched his McLaren round the outside of Russell at turn three, only for his compatriot to slide back past at the next bend. The two Englishmen were separated by mere centimetres, with Norris dropping two of his wheels on the grass to force his way ahead at turn seven.

Norris set about reducing Verstappen’s nine-second lead, and when the Red Bull driver stopped for a second time on lap 44, Norris was within five seconds of the Red Bull.

Norris waited a further three laps before he changed to softs in the hope his rubber would come alive at the end of the race. And, although he turned on the after-burners in the closing stages, he never got close enough to challenge Verstappen, crossing the line 2.2 sec adrift.

Hamilton overtook team-mate Russell with 14 laps remaining to take third, 17.7 sec off the pace, claiming his first podium of the year. Russell held off Leclerc for fourth, with Carlos Sainz sixth in the other Ferrari.