Lando Norris reflected on an ‘awesome’ weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, which saw the young British racer participate in his first official Formula 1 practice session on Friday before outscoring his championship rival George Russell across the two FIA Formula 2 races on Saturday and Sunday.
Norris took the seat of McLaren F1 Team’s Fernando Alonso in first practice in Belgium and completed twenty-six laps in finishing eighteenth fastest, although he was not able to do any maximum attack laps as his primary focus was to test various aerodynamic elements on the MCL33.
“An awesome if very busy weekend!” said Norris. “I was testing various aero elements in the F1 session and couldn’t really show my true pace with no ‘max’ attack laps but it was a good, fun session overall.
“It was about me doing consistent runs and giving the engineers good feedback to help them for the rest of the weekend. It was a fantastic experience to drive a F1 car around Spa.”
Norris was then back in his usual seat in Formula 2 with Carlin half hour later and admitted it took him some time to readapt, but he was able to get a top four result in that practice session before setting the fifth best time in Qualifying.
“It was then tricky jumping into the F2 car for practice less than 30mins later, a slower car with a lot less performance in all areas,” said the British racer. “It took me time to readjust and I was quite surprised I was P4 as it felt really slow and weird.
“My first push lap in qually was pretty reasonable, a couple of tenths off but good enough for P2 which then became P3. Then I didn’t do a perfect lap on my second run, making a mistake under braking at the final chicane.”
Norris felt he made a good start in the Feature race but was unable to find an opportunity to make a pass on championship rival Russell, ultimately finishing behind the ART Grand Prix driver in fourth position.
“I made a decent start in the Feature race, making up a place on the inside into La Source, but it was a tough, long race with not a lot happening and I never felt I had the outright pace,” he said. “I had one real chance to get ahead of George [Russell] after the Safety Car but was too far back.
“The most difficult part of the race was getting around the guys on the alternate [tyre] strategy.”
Norris’ Sprint race was much better as he climbed from fifth on the grid to finish second, with overnight changes to the set-up of his car aiding his climb through the field, which culminated in a final lap pass on Nyck de Vries for that second-place finish.
This result coupled with the failure of Russell to better seventh meant Norris sits only five points behind him heading to this weekend’s races at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
“We made changes to the car after yesterday’s race,” said Norris. “I was clear in the direction I wanted to take it and was confident between Carlin and I, it would make a difference and that proved to be the case.
“Nyck was extremely fast yesterday but my car’s set-up was good and I felt confident. The last couple of laps were difficult as I needed to get past Nyck but not take too much out of the tyres causing me to drop behind Alex [Albon] and Artem [Markelov]. Thankfully it all worked out.”
Norris will again perform double duty this weekend when he drives Stoffel Vandoorne‘s McLaren in first practice in Italy before racing in Formula 2.