Lando Norris says fighting Carlos Sainz adds an extra edge to the battle between McLaren and Ferrari after he held off his former teammate at the Styrian Grand Prix.
Sainz and Norris enjoyed a strong relationship at McLaren in 2019 and 2020, before the Spaniard replaced Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari. This year, the two teams are closely matched and while Norris started third in Austria on Sunday and Sainz 12th, the pair converged on different strategies with Norris eventually finishing a little under seven seconds clear of the Ferrari in fifth.
“We still had very good pace compared to everyone bar Ferrari, who were very similar,” Norris said. “Their strategy was also very strong. He came from a long way back. It looked good already on Friday, so once I knew he was behind me – at some point in the race where he was ahead of me, and he had not stopped yet – I knew he was going to be very fast at the end because it is the same strategy he did with us a few years ago in ’19.
“So a little bit expected from him, which is of course OK, but if they started behind us they probably could’ve finished ahead or been a lot more of a threat.
“It is the same for him to me. He knows how I drive, of course we try to change a bit so he does not know everything. That is the advantage and disadvantage of someone moving teams. It is the way it is for everyone.
“We expected it coming into the race, and as soon as he did it I was like ‘OK he’s going to be coming at me in the end a lot.’ It is going to be a tough few last laps because he was very fast, but I had a big enough gap and I think the pace was still good enough when I really had to push to hold him off quite easily.”
McLaren and Ferrari trading blows. 😤
See you at the same time next week, @ScuderiaFerrari. 🤝#StyrianGP 🇦🇹 pic.twitter.com/GNFphJ8pGy
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) June 27, 2021
Additionally, Norris says while he still enjoys a strong relationship with Sainz, the fact that they are now at rival teams makes the Ferrari driver his number one target to beat in races.
“We are still good mates,” Norris said. “We still chat every now and then and make jokes to each other and things like that. We get along and we have done since we were teammates back in ’19. Of course, when we are on track there’s probably no one then I want to beat more than Carlos. And probably him for me.
“He wants to beat McLaren as well, and we want to beat Ferrari just as much. It is part of the challenge but I still have respect for all the drivers. And I still have some mates from the drivers that are raced against, and he is one of them so we might go play some golf (between races).”