Norris startled by podium: 'I was ready to go home early!'

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL38. 21.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, China, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images
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McLaren driver Lando Norris was the first to admit that clinching second place in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai had exceeded all his expectations for the weekend.

Norris had pulled off a Sprint pole on Friday but was swept wide at the start of the race itself and finished in sixth. Starting from P4 on Sunday, he was expecting a similar result in the Grand Prix.

Instead, Norris found himself leading the race on lap 14 when Red Bull decided to pit Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez earlier than expected, although Verstappen soon caught back up and was in the lead again five laps later.

Running a long first stint meant Norris was still to make his first stint when a Virtual Safety Car was deployed for Valtteri Bottas' retirement. Initially it looked as though the VSC had come out too late for Norris to take advantage.

Fortunately the VSC was extended allowing Norris to pit after all, and was then upgraded to a full safety car which was followed by a second when congestion triggered a number of collisions at the restart.

While other cars made use of the subsequent cautions to make extra stops, Norris found himself running second to Verstappen albeit on slightly older tyres, making tyre management the key to success in the second half of the race.

"I could just push: the car felt great and felt comfortable," Norris told the media after the finish. "Good pitstops. [I] could manage the tyres a lot which was a much easier task than yesterday.

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL38 makes a pit stop. 21.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, China, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images

"Good day, good points and another podium," he said after being voted the official F1 Driver of the Day for his performance. "I'm very happy, I'm happy for the whole team they deserve it," adding: "Today just worked out.

"I don't know why I really wasn't expecting it to be the kind of race we had today," he admitted. "I just wasn't expecting today at all. I got everything ready to go home early and not be on the podium!

"I was surprised by many things," he said. "The lack of pace from Ferrari today, our good pace, and I guess more us comparing to the Red Bull which was so surprising.

"So it's a pleasant surprise, but it shows the team have done a good job. We're working hard and it's paying off."

Just how much Norris was surprised by todays' performance was underlined by the revelation of a wager that he talked about with his race engineer in which he felt that McLaren would be over half a minute slower than the Ferrari cars.

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren celebrates his second position on the podium. 21.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, China, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"I made a bet to how far behind the Ferrari we would finish today and I thought 35 second," Norris said. "I was very wrong by that! I'm happy to be wrong with myself from my own bets."

In fact there was no time all afternoon that Norris fell behind either Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, with Norris easily able to prevent Leclerc from challenging him on track.

Norris did have to make sure that he managed his tyres in order to ensure that Perez couldn't retake P2 in the closing laps. His lead over the Mexican was more than five seconds in his favour at the line.

Norris' team mate Oscar Piastri had a more subdued day, getting passed by the two Ferrari cars even before suffering damage to the MCL38 in the second restart when he was tapped from the rear by Daniel Ricciardo.

However the Australian did contribute another four points to the team's points championship with eighth place, meaning that McLaren pull further away from Mercedes in the battle for third place in the constructors championship.

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