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Formula 1 Austrian GP

"Overcritical" Norris chasing final percent to beat Verstappen in F1

Spanish GP runner-up backtracks on harsh self-criticism of his start

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, in the garage

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, in the garage

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris admits he was too critical of his Spanish Grand Prix start as he tries to find ways to beat Max Verstappen in Formula 1.

Norris pipped runaway championship leader Verstappen to Barcelona pole by a mere 0.020s, showcasing the tight battle the two teams are in now.

But the McLaren driver didn't enjoy his lead for very long, being unable to keep Verstappen at bay off the line, and then seeing Mercedes's George Russell slingshot past both of them to swoop into a Turn 1 lead.

Norris fought his way past Russell to finish second, but Red Bull remained out of striking range.

In his trademark self-critical style, Norris slated himself for not having as good a start as Verstappen, feeling like that's where he lost his chance for a second career win.

Following post-race analysis Norris conceded he was too self-critical as Verstappen just had a marginally better launch, and Russell's powerful slipstream on the long run down to Turn 1 was hard to resist anyway.

But it is indicative of the final one per cent that Norris feels he and McLaren need to find to beat the Verstappen-Red Bull juggernaut, which has been nailing results even on nominally weaker circuits such as Imola or Montreal.

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

When asked where that final percent is coming from, he replied: "I don't think there's an easy answer to it.

"Even my start was not a bad start. At the time maybe I was a bit overcritical on saying I had a bad start, but I didn't and George still would have passed me.

"it's just that in every little area, we just need a little bit more preparation or a bit more practice on Fridays or Saturdays and getting these things nailed down.

"I could have easily tried to be a hero and gone around outside of Max, and that only would have caused a crash, and I would have ended up taking George out.

"After Turn 2, everything was very good, even our strategy. I know we got a lot of criticism on strategy, but that's from people who have no idea what they're talking about.

"So, I'm very happy with probably 99.5%. Just a couple of meters off the line cost me last weekend."

It is just one example of how every tiny detail needs to be correct to challenge Red Bull, even if McLaren appeared to have the quickest car in Spain.

But Norris doesn't believe his MCL38 was all that much quicker than Verstappen's RB20, instead identifying his fresher tyres as the reason why has was clawing back his deficit in the final stint.

"Even after reviewing last weekend, I don't necessarily think we had a much quicker car than Red Bull," he insisted.

"I looked quicker than Max because of my extended stints, having a decent tyre delta over him.

Race start - Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15 battle for the lead

Race start - Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15 battle for the lead

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

"It might not look like anything, but four laps of tyre delta to another car in Barcelona is quite extreme in terms of lap time difference."

But Norris says he has seen enough of how his car has developed in recent races, and become more of an all-rounder after dialing out low-speed weaknesses, to keep challenging Verstappen and add to his lone Miami win.

"There are just tiny little things I needed to tidy up and as a team, we have to do a slightly better job," he added.

"But a lot of it was at the level that it needs to be, so we could go on and win some races.

"I definitely think that's possible with how the team is performing, how I'm performing at the minute.

"But we're against one of the best drivers ever in Formula 1, one of the best-performing teams in Formula 1, so everything needs to be executed perfectly well and last weekend everything was not executed perfectly well.

"That one thing that wasn't, that's what cost us."

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