Lando Norris believes Simon Pagenaud already had something against him before taking him out of Saturday’s IndyCar iRacing Challenge finale at virtual Indianapolis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver – who won the previous IndyCar sim racing event at COTA – went three-wide with Graham Rahal and Pagenaud into Turn 2 for the lead late in the race, and Rahal veered right into the reigning Indy 500 champion. Pagenaud was unhappy with Norris for the move and pitted for repairs before rejoining, saying on his video stream: “Let me take Lando out – let’s do it!”
Pagenaud then slowed in front of then-leader Norris out of Turn 4, causing a collision with the Arrow McLaren SP entry. Although the Penske driver immediately claimed he was pitting, and later revised that to saying that he wanted to slow Norris up, the Briton says he had been expecting something from the Frenchman.
“I think it’s obvious enough from every video,” Norris told RACER. “I knew it was coming. I don’t know why, because I did absolutely nothing wrong.
“I had such an easy run round Turn 1 as they both kind of pushed wide that I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll just go to the inside’. I was completely alongside and a bit ahead of Rahal into Turn 2. So everything from my side was fine. I didn’t push wide into them. I gave them plenty of space. It was it was such an obvious decision. There was zero risk in what I did.
“I hate to say it, but the big talking point from my side is it was a net code – every sim driver’s excuse! But the reason Rahal went right was not to avoid me, it was because I’m in England and he’s in America, and the connection isn’t always bang-on, especially with my WiFi. So I went through it and he was a meter away from me, there was plenty of space, but from his side or my side the computers thought that we’ve touched a little bit and has just bumped him a bit wide, which has obviously put Pagenaud into the wall.
“What I don’t understand is how Pagenaud thought it was my fault straight away for some reason. You see on his stream, he just blames me straight away, which obviously gives everyone a very clear idea [that] I’m the guy that he just wants to blame for no apparent reason. What he’s got against me I don’t know, but he blamed me straight away.
“I didn’t know that, and I was carrying on with my race and everything was going well. The decision I made, I back 100%, and I would make it again no matter what. And I was in a good position, and I was holding onto my lead.
“Then with two laps to go I see Pagenaud on my delta like eight seconds ahead. I’m like, ‘That’s a bit weird… Two laps to go, he’s in the wall. Why? Maybe he just wants to finish the race. But…’
“This was all going through my head while trying to defend to Askew behind me and hold on to my position. I could see on the delta coming down like six seconds ahead now after the back straight, five seconds, next lap four seconds… I feel something’s like not right! So I say to my spotter, ‘I kind of feel like I’m gonna get screwed over by Pagenaud here’. So I had it already in my mind that he was going to do something.”
Norris says watching Pagenaud’s stream back left him feeling like the Frenchman already had a problem with him even before any on track incidents.
“For someone to just make that kind of decision and to blame me for the crash, before he even knows who caused anything, already starts to tell you something,” he said. “So I tried speaking to him after… I didn’t know, I didn’t have the most confidence in what he said, personally. But I just wanted to speak to him about it, because I just felt like he would not have come to me about it. And I just wanted to clear it up and ask why he did what he did.
“You can all go and hear it on Twitter on his stream or something. He said he was coming to the pits, but I think 99.9% of the Twitter followers, everyone watching my stream, and everyone around motorsports can say that he wasn’t. So I don’t really need to say too much. I think it’s very clear from from the outside what his intentions were.”
Listen to the full interview below: