Lando Norris was amazed to finish on the podium in the fourth race of the F1 season at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after McLaren’s poor start to 2022.
McLaren was well off the pace during Bahrain testing and the opening race, with Norris finishing 15th, one place behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo and nearly a minute off winner Charles Leclerc despite a late safety car period. There was a step forward in Saudi Arabia, but Melbourne showed the first glimpse of strength when both cars finished in the top six, and Norris followed that with a podium at Imola after Leclerc’s late error.
“Surprised, I guess, to be here, but it feels amazing,” Norris said. “From where we were three or four weeks ago in Bahrain to being on the podium, I genuinely didn’t think we’d be on the podium all year after Bahrain, so it’s quite a shock. Maybe not surprising after the progress we made over the last month, but with how much quicker the Red Bulls and Ferraris are, it’s hard to ever imagine yourself on the podium.
“A great result today would have been P5 but a few good things throughout this race — an amazing start to be ahead of both the Ferraris, to stay out of the chaos which happened behind. It was a lonely but great race, just managing the gap to George (Russell), looking after the tires for the whole stint… Everything went well all weekend, not just the race today but qualifying P3 already was a pretty good achievement for us. So a great weekend, nice to see the improvements we’ve been bringing and to reward everyone with a podium is even better.”
Despite qualifying third, Norris says it’s unclear if McLaren now has the third-fastest car, but says the main focus has to be on maximizing the opportunities that come the team’s way regardless of outright pace.
“It’s too difficult to say, it changes every weekend. The Mercedes wasn’t so bad this weekend — I think we were probably quicker than them throughout, but the Alfa Romeo was maybe quicker. (Valtteri Bottas) was off at the start I think and quicker yesterday — quicker today, just couldn’t get past George.
“It doesn’t really matter. We beat two cars that are probably a second a lap quicker than us and one ended up in the wall and one ended up in the gravel. So it doesn’t necessarily mean if you have the third- or fourth- or fifth-best car, we just executed a great race from our side. The car was good, I had good confidence and that’s all I needed.”