Lando Norris rode an emotional roller coaster through the late stages of the Austrian Grand Prix before before putting in a stunning final lap — the fastest of the race — and claiming his Formula 1 podium with a third-place finish.
After the final safety car restart — caused by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo losing a wheel — Norris dropped to sixth place behind Charles Leclerc, having led the Ferrari the whole race after starting from third. Norris also fought off teammate Carlos Sainz but then gained a place when Alex Albon collided with Lewis Hamilton. The Briton overtook Sergio Perez on track and set a blistering final lap in clear air to get within five seconds of Hamilton, and was classified third due to the defending champion’s time penalty.
“I’m just so happy,” Norris said. “I was very happy after yesterday — we maximized everything we had. We did better than we thought we were going to do because we knew the Ferraris were strong and the Racing Points were going to be strong. I think today’s race highlighted that we had to keep pushing through the whole race.
“It’s nice when you have a car that is, compared to last year, more competitive and you can always be there or thereabouts on safety car restarts and so on. I’m so happy because it very easily could have been the opposite to the result I got right now. I got back down to sixth after Charles passed me.
“It was kind of going downhill — I was all over the place, locking up, going wide — but I knew I had good pace in the car. I had to get my head down. I tried to get past Perez after he had a penalty — I was fairly aggressive with my overtake but I had to be at that point.
“Then Lewis had a five-second penalty and I only got him on the last lap of the race. I think it was 5.8s [gap] or something onto the final lap and I got it down to 4.8… if I didn’t put in the fastest lap of the race, which I’m very proud of, I wouldn’t be here. I want to say thank you to the team. I’m probably rambling a lot, but I’m just super happy!”
After admitting that he was dreading the start due to a number of poor practice launches this weekend, Norris was in sublime form in the final three laps as he muscled past Perez at Turn 3 and then delivered two extremely quick laps, the second of which earned him an extra point as well as his first trophy in F1.
“The last few laps it was kind of different, because initially I only knew about Sergio having the penalty, and I was P5 at that point. I obviously still wanted P4 and I had pace and he was on the old tires, so I initially had to judge what risk I would take to try and get past him or whether I would just get the position freely though the penalty. But I had much better pace and Carlos was right behind me, so Carlos would have gone for every move he could have done, just like he did.
“So I knew I had to get past him, but at that point I still didn’t know about Lewis having the penalty either, so I was happy to get past him in the first place and I had clean air, which was good for me. I could start putting down some decent laps and start catching Charles a little bit but he was still too far ahead to really catch.
“Then I think it was with three laps to go that I got told Lewis had the five-second penalty and we used the rest of our engine modes and obviously I pushed it a little bit more in terms of track limits and using the curbs. It’s quite harsh on the car and when you don’t need to take the risks, then you maybe back it off a little bit. But we didn’t really have any concerns so I was told I could get on with it and really push it.
“I took the risks that I needed to but on the final lap I managed to close in, I don’t know what (the gap) was on Lewis, so that was the key. I got the podium on the final lap of the race. If I was any further back or didn’t put in as good of a lap, I wouldn’t be here.
“So thankfully we have a car which was quick enough that I was able to close that. If it was this time last year I wouldn’t have had the car that was capable of doing so. It shows our improvement as a team and improvement through the upgrades and development we did over the winter.”