McLaren unsure Norris was a lap short of beating Verstappen

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Lando Norris' thrilling pursuit of Max Verstappen in the closing stages of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix left McLaren team boss Andrea Stella wondering if the Briton could have beaten his Red Bull rival with just a few more laps.

Norris was trailing Verstappen by more than eight seconds at the end of his first stint on the hard compound tyre. But a switch to the hard rubber saw the McLaren driver up the pace and relentlessly hunt down the Dutchman in the closing stages of the race.

However, he came within DRS range of the Red Bull only on the final lap and ultimately crossed the checkered flag 0.725s behind his rival.

The McLaren charger felt that he could have overhauled Verstappen had the event lasted a couple more laps, but Stella offered a more measured perspective.

"Well, 63 laps is already many laps," Stella told Sky Sports F1. "Many times you say you would like one lap more.

"It is what it is and also it is Max Verstappen, I am sure he was a bit in trouble but he managed to get the most out of what he had, so well done Max and well done to our two drivers, second and fourth."

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As the race entered its final stage, Norris was informed by McLaren race engineer Will Joseph that his pursuing – mainly Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – were suffering from higher degradation.

Stella praised Norris for his tyre management on the hards, and thanks to which he was able to give Verstappen a run for his money in the end, calling the 24-year-old “a bit of a master” of the black rubber.

"We actually lost too much time in the first stint behind Max, but we had too much rear degradation and we thought actually today was about watching the mirrors [more] than watching ahead of us," he explained.

"After a period on the hard tyres in which we saved the tyres, while Leclerc and Oscar [Piastri] were fighting each other, I think this initial investment paid dividends towards the end of the race for Lando.

"Managing the budget of the tyres was an important factor and we have to say from this point of view Lando has become a bit of a master.

"Oscar paid for some issues we had yesterday in qualifying, otherwise he would’ve been on the podium as well. We take this positive and we look forward with some optimism now."

Norris reckoned that the time lost to Verstappen early on during his first sting on the medium tyre ultimately cost him a shot at a second consecutive win in F1.

"I fought hard right until the very last lap but just lost out a little bit too much to Max in the beginning," said Norris.

"He was much better in the first stint and obviously in the second stint we were stronger.

"it's still a surprise to say it's frustrating not to win. But after last weekend and the improvements we made, it's what we should have started to expect."

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