The result of the 2021 Russian Grand Prix will have Lando Norris down as finishing seventh, but this will show the true reflection of a race that saw him on the verge of a maiden Formula 1 victory onto to be denied in the closing laps by the weather.
For much of the race at the Sochi Autodrom on Sunday, the McLaren F1 Team driver was leading, and at one point had more than a ten-second advantage over eventual winner Lewis Hamilton.
The race unravelled with just half a dozen laps to go when rain began to fall at the circuit, and whereas Hamilton headed to the pit lane to switch to the intermediate tyre, Norris gambled on completing one more lap to try and get an advantage.
However, on that lap, the rain began to fall heavier, and rather than gain an advantage, it was a test just to get back to the pit lane. He lost the lead by going off track at turn five before crawling to the pits for intermediate tyres. He was able to pass Kimi Räikkönen for seventh but that was all he could manage on a day where he had the race in his pocket.
“It wasn’t the race or the result we wanted in the end,” said Norris. “I made a good start and we had a good first stint.
“Right at the end when the rain started, we made the call not to box and that cost us everything. We made the decision that was right at the time for the conditions at the time. It was my call, along with the information from the team, and together we need to review what we could’ve done better.
“It’s incredibly disappointing of course, because we’ve been strong all weekend and I felt comfortable with the pace and the car today. The team has done a great job and I want to thank them for all their hard work.
“Of course, the result is not a reflection of our weekend, but there are a lot of positive we can take, and now we need to analyse, reset and bounce back in Turkey.”
“I just missed the podium, but P4 is a solid result” – Daniel Ricciardo
Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was one of the drivers to get ahead of Norris in the final laps as the Australian pitted earlier for his intermediate tyres, eventually ending just off the podium in fourth.
Ricciardo was in the fight for points all day long but was never in the battle for the podium places until the end, with the Italian Grand Prix winner ending just 3.132 seconds behind third placed Carlos Sainz Jr. at the chequered flag.
In a race where mistakes would be punished, especially at the end, Ricciardo was pleased to bring his car home from some valuable points for both himself and the team as they continue to battle Scuderia Ferrari for third place in the Constructors’ Championship.
“Pretty eventful race,” admitted Ricciardo. “Sometimes this track doesn’t provide that, but this weekend it did with both quali and the race. There was a lot that happened.
“I think my start was kinda too good! I had to pull out and then pull back in, so we lost a few positions there, but then made a few back over the first lap. So, there were some good moments. I defended pretty well in the first stint, then in the second stint made a few good passes, but then struggled towards the end of that Hard tyre.
“Then the rain came, and that’s when it all turned on its head. The in-lap was sketchy. I think Carlos [Sainz] went off in Turn Seven, then me, then Max [Verstappen]. I think Max saw both of us and just went off less and was able to pass there. Then we got out on the Inters and I could see Carlos ahead – the last couple of laps I felt like I was bringing him in a bit, but it was a little too late.
“I just missed the podium, but P4 is a solid result. Good points and, I think, for those tricky conditions, it’s always nice just to get out with your nose clean. There are definitely some positives and personally still a few things to work on, so we’ll keep our head down.”