Lando Norris thought he’d thrown away his second place in the Singapore Grand Prix when he clipped the wall moments before George Russell did too and crashed, the McLaren driver admitting he never felt he could beat Carlos Sainz to victory.
Russell hit the wall just before turning in at Turn 10, causing him to go straight on at that corner and lose third place on the final lap. Russell was trying to put pressure on Norris who had been closely following leader Sainz throughout the latter stages, but the McLaren driver says he knew he had no chance of overtaking the Spaniard and was instead focused on protecting second place before he too clipped the same wall directly ahead of Russell.
“George struggled to overtake me when he had a five-, six-tenth second per lap advantage, so the chance of me getting ahead of Carlos with a maybe one-tenth advantage, there was no chance,” Norris said. “I think Carlos played it smart. There was no need for me to try and attack him.
“The more I attacked him, probably the more vulnerable I would have been from both the guys behind. I wouldn’t be sitting here and wouldn’t have been on the podium if I had played it different. Stressful last few laps, for sure.
“I think we both knew as soon as the VSC came out, we had to put in a stint and a half and try and open up the gap as big as possible. They still caught us. Then it was about not making any mistakes. I knew with George, he was going to pressure me a lot, he did. I had to defend quite a bit into 15, 14. That’s when Carlos backed off after that, when there was a little bit of a gap, and allowed me to get the DRS again which was very helpful. I think we together played it in a smart way to get the Mercs to stay behind us.
“The last lap then I had a bit more of a breather. I hit the wall where George also hit the wall, but I hit it with the front, so I kind of panicked a bit, thinking I’d maybe just messed it all up. It damaged the steering — it was off center, but luckily it was nothing more than that. An amazing race, stressful race from start to finish. A lot of management, but perfectly executed.”
Although Sainz was playing with the gap between the top two cars to ensure Norris had DRS and was able to keep the Mercedes drivers at bay, Norris says the McLaren’s performance was marginally better than Ferrari’s on Sunday.
“I think our pace was strong, honestly. I think initially I started to catch him myself. I think our pace was a bit better towards the end of stints. I think the Ferrari was a bit better in the initial part of the stints. I think I would have caught up to him ever so slightly anyway. And I think I would have got into DRS.
“It was more when there was a gap, when I was most under pressure from George, that’s when he helped me out. I guess it helped me keep him from not getting under pressure, from not getting attacked, because I’m sure if I’d been overtaken, Carlos would have been under more pressure too. They drove an amazing race, both George and Lewis (Hamilton), and of course Carlos drove a great race to not have any mistakes, not have any lockups and finish where we did.”