Lando Norris showed his true colours by jokingly calling on Max Verstappen to avoid holding him up at the Spanish Grand Prix after putting his McLaren on the second row of the grid in qualifying. The young Brit produced a highly impressive lap in Q3 to secure a third-placed grid start in Barcelona, although an unfortunate first-lap collision with Lewis Hamilton ended any hopes of a surprise podium finish.
Norris eventually crossed the line in 17th place after he was forced to pit for a front wing replacement at the end of lap one, although Hamilton managed to avoid picking up any damage and went on to finish second. The McLaren driver started from directly behind Verstappen on the grid, with second-placed Carlos Sainz lining up on the other side of the track, and showed off his jocular personality before the race by issuing a tongue-in-cheek plea to his Dutch rival.
"You never know, the pace could be mega and I could catch Max and overtake him," said Norris. "Hopefully he doesn't hold me up like in Monaco, but we'll see! It's a new day, we didn't expect to be as good [in qualifying] as we were and, like Carlos said, we're on the clean side of the grid. I let him have this one because I want to make it out of the track alive!"
Ultimately, nobody came close to troubling Verstappen over the course of the 66-lap contest in Spain, with the exception of a brief tussle between the Red Bull ace and Sainz as they jostled for position into Turn One on the very first lap. Norris was clearly happy to laugh at Verstappen's dominance before the five red lights went out, with his comments serving to highlight the sense of humour that has gained him so many admirers since making his F1 debut back in 2019.
Christian Horner has promised to sit down with Max Verstappen to discuss the Red Bull star's refusal to tone down his driving after appearing to ignore instructions from his race engineer.
The Dutchman breezed to a fifth victory of the season to extend his lead in the Drivers' Championship over his team-mate Sergio Perez, but Horner may have been concerned about another tetchy exchange between Verstappen and his engineer Gianpiero Lambiase during the race.
Norris was in no mood for jokes after the chequered flag in Barcelona, though, as he was left to wonder what might have been if he had managed to avoid colliding with Hamilton just seconds after the start of the race.
"The pace was as expected today, which was bad," he told reporters in the media pen. "I don't think we expected anything else really. Our aim was to maybe finish in the points, but we weren't expecting anything like yesterday.
"Because we're slow, we have been all year. I don't know, there's nothing else to say. Yesterday was a special day. Some good teams struggled a lot and some of the worse teams did a better job, so it was just an odd day, people making a lot of mistakes and we just capitalised on that.
"Apart from that, we've been off the pace all season, struggling to finish in the points in half the races. And today was just that again. There was the expectation that we would have had a very difficult day today. We're clearly nowhere near as quick as Alpine, Aston or all of these top-five, top-six teams."
Norris went on to offer a simple explanation for his first-lap tangle with Hamilton by describing their coming-together as just a racing incident, with the 23-year-old insisting that neither he nor his Mercedes counterpart were primarily to blame for what happened.
"I did see in Turn One that Max went off the track, went a bit wide, so then he had to bounce over the kerb in Turn Two and then everyone just checked up," said Norris. "I was too close to Lewis to be able to react and brake and whatever. So just an unlucky moment. Lewis was fine, he didn't do anything wrong."
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