McLaren’s Lando Norris claims to have “grazed” his position on an inaugural Formula 1 podium during “a few moments” of a chaotic Austrian Grand Prix.
Starting in third after Lewis Hamilton’s three-seater grid crash due to a breach of the yellow flag in qualifying, Norris dropped to fifth place in the early laps.
But after falling behind Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari, five-second late penalties were granted to Hamilton for contact with Alexander Albon and Sergio Perez for speeding in the pit lane. Norris found himself in contention on the podium in the closing laps.
After dismissing teammate Carlos Sainz Jr, who had fresher tires, an aggressive move on Perez’s Racing Point at turn 3 gave Norris clean air which he used to post the fastest lap of the race on the final tour and finish within 4.8s of Hamilton to the checkered flag – getting a first podium in F1 of only two tenths of a second at the correct time.
Commenting on the result, McLaren’s second podium in three races after Sainz finished third in Brazil last year, Norris said: “I’m speechless. I think there are some points in the race where I thought I’d ruined myself a little ‘.
“I went down to fifth with a few laps, Carlos was about to overtake me.
“But I didn’t give up and I managed to pass Perez and I got on the podium.
“I mean, it’s a long race, but I continued and I gave everything, [I had] a nice lap of the last laps trying to push as much as possible.
“I’m a little out of breath, but I’m so happy and proud of the team.
“Considering where we were a few years ago so far, I think it’s a pretty good result, so I’m proud to be part of it.”
Norris said he was aware of Perez’s penalty, but not of Hamilton at the time, and his solid pass over the Mexican was mostly vulnerable to Sainz’s attacks.
“The last laps, when I had to overcome Checo, I knew he had a five second penalty but nothing more,” he added.
“I always seemed to be in trouble when I was near the cars in front and more vulnerable to the guys behind.
“So I knew it, not just for Lewis, because I didn’t know it at the time [he had a penalty] – I had to try to get over it.
“And then when Lewis’s penalty came, I knew I had to get up a bit.”
The McLaren group laid off some 1,200 employees during the forced blockade of the coronavirus, after being severely hit by the financial fallout caused by the pandemic.
This happened months after a member of his race team tested positive for COVID-19 on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix, which led to his retirement from the race and eventually to the event’s total cancellation.
Team leader Andreas Seidl noted that there was “nothing better” than Norris’ result for the team after “such a difficult period”.
“Obviously I’m proud to be honest about being part of the team today,” Seidl told Sky Sports F1.
“There could be nothing better for the whole team, especially after this difficult period, and such a result to get P3 and P5 I think, is simply incredible for the whole team.”