Lando Norris admits he was left “devastated” after seeing his first win in Formula 1 slip away due to making the wrong tire call amid late rain in the Russian Grand Prix.
The McLaren driver started from pole position for the first time and although he dropped behind Carlos Sainz off the line, he retook the lead from the Ferrari on lap 13 and pulled away. While he appeared to have the race under control despite Lewis Hamilton putting pressure on over the final 15 laps, late rain saw Hamilton pit for intermediates while Norris stayed out on slicks, with a heavy shower making the latter call the wrong one.
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“I don’t know where to start,” a clearly emotional Norris said after the race. “Obviously unhappy, devastated in a way. But I guess we made a call to stay out and we stand by that call. Of course it’s the wrong one at the end of the day, but I made the decision just as much as the team — in fact it was more they thought I should box and I decided to stay out. So it was a bit of just my decision — I thought it was the way to go.”
With three laps remaining, a lap of more than three minutes dropped Norris to seventh in the final classification once he finally made it back to the pits for inters, but he stands by the call he made based on the knowledge he had at the time.
“I had the confidence beforehand, felt capable of doing it for a while, so I just don’t think that’s really changed. But just a bit of heartbreak, you know.
“I felt like I did everything I could — even when it got tricky at the end, I made a couple of mistakes but still kept Lewis behind and started to pull away a little bit. So a bit of luck. The laps I was out before Lewis boxed it was perfectly fine for the tires I was on.
“I got told the rain was going to stay the same amount. So if it was the same amount it would have been the right decision. I think staying out was the correct decision, but it obviously got a lot wetter than we as a team expected and that had us over in the end.”
Norris noted that the timing of the rain made the call so much harder as the potential outcomes were so extreme, but he doesn’t want the error to overshadow the positives from a weekend where he took his first pole and led much of the race.
“I mean, especially when it’s only two laps to go — when it’s 20 to go you’re maybe not as aggressive with decisions. But we did what we thought was right, which I’m happy with. Of course it was wrong at the end, but everything until then the guys did an excellent job, and have done all weekend. So I’m happy with basically everything apart from that one decision, which we’ll review and hopefully try not to make again.”