McLaren's Lando Norris says his 15-lap battle with Lewis Hamilton in last month's Austrian Grand Prix helped him realise that he now has the confidence to hold his own against the very best in F1 in a wheel-to-wheel battle.
Norris' trajectory in F1 has been in an uptrend since his entry into the big time with McLaren in 2019.
The young Briton's steady progress yielded his first podium in 2020 in Austria, while a further step forward this season produced a run of ten consecutive top-ten finishes, including three podiums, at Imola, Monaco and again in Austria.
At the second round of racing at the Red Bull Ring in early July, Norris followed up a superb P2 performance in qualifying with an equally solid display on race day when he defended his runner-up spot in an all-out battle with Hamilton in the opening stage of the trace.
For 15 laps, Norris delayed the inevitable and held his own against the seven-time world champion, only yielding to the faster Mercedes when he realized that his staunch defence was likely putting his own race at risk.
The spirited fight - for which Hamilton praised Norris after gaining the upper hand over the McLaren charger - delivered its chunk of useful knowledge. But more importantly, it uplifted the young talent's confidence in his ability to challenge the best.
"I think it was valuable, and I think it’s something that will definitely help me out in the future when I’m in those kinds of situations again," Norris told Motorsport.
"And it’s just reassuring to know that if I am there in the future, if I am in that position again, I’m able to compete there and be able to beat him in different scenarios.
"It doesn’t make me believe all of a sudden I can win races and I can achieve greatness. You know, it doesn’t change like that. But it’s just when I’m in that position again, I know what I’m capable of doing against someone like Lewis."
While battling strong drivers was nothing new for Norris, the 21-year-old says the context of his battle in Austria against Hamilton was particularly motivating.
"The fight is with Mercedes, and it’s Lewis, which maybe puts that little bit more pressure on you," he explained.
"I’ve been racing people since day one and whenever you have someone behind you, no matter who it is, and they’re quicker than you, you always feel pressure, you always feel like you don’t make mistakes, and so on.
"But, of course, in Austria I was fighting over third or second position at the time, so that also acts as an added pressure to it.
"I don’t think the fact that it was Lewis changes everything, and it’s like: ‘Oh my God, what do I have to do now?’. But it makes a very small difference, because you know he’s one of the best drivers in the world and ever in Formula 1.
"So it just forces you to be even more perfect, to concentrate even more and things like that. Which I was able to do for 20 laps until I thought, I’m just ruining my own race now and I’ve got to let him go.
"So yeah, it’s more reassuring, and gives me good confidence in the future when I’m in that position again of I’m racing Lewis or Max or whoever, that I’m comfortable that I can perform well.
"I’m not gonna say I don’t make mistakes under pressure, because I’m sure I will. But I can perform very well and not easily make that mistake or give something up that easy."