Norris finishes on the podium amid thrilling race at Imola
Driver of the Day Analysis following the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
All eyes were on Lando Norris by the end of Sunday’s race as the British driver achieved his second career podium, finishing P3, after a race that had everyone on the edge of their seats throughout.
His brilliant race-day performance followed a disappointing qualifying for Norris, who had set a time in Q3 that would have earned him a second-row grid position-- which was ultimately deleted due to a track-limits violation at turn nine.
Norris ended up P7 after qualifying was complete, so he was less than optimistic about the race to come, as overtaking proved to be difficult during the 2020 Imola race.
“It’s a qualifying track, so, today’s the day I didn’t want to make any mistakes and I made a pretty big one,” Norris said during a post-qualifying interview posted on F1.com, “We’ll see what we can do tomorrow, it’s going to be very difficult.”
Race day began with semi-wet conditions and no shortage of drama. Norris had dropped back two positions on the start, landing him P9. He would have very little trouble making up for it though, as he made a brave move on Lap 8 where he slipped past both Stroll and Sainz down the pit straight to return to P7. He would overtake Gasly soon after on Lap 9, which earned him P6.
Norris then found himself driving behind his teammate, Ricciardo, for several laps before McLaren made the decision to let Norris ahead to evaluate his “pace in clear air”.
He would then gain two more positions from Perez, who had served a penalty, and Hamilton, who had gone off into the gravel. By the time the red flag was flown during Lap 33 due to the collision between Russell and Bottas, he found himself P3.
Norris switched off of the mediums to softs for the rolling restart, and overtook Leclerc for P2 right off of the start. With a podium in his sights, he was able to fend off the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz for the remainder of the race. Hamilton, however, had his eyes on P2 after recovering from his incident of sliding off the track.
Norris was able to defend against Hamilton for a few laps-- the Mercedes driver made several attempts to overtake him under DRS going into the Tamburello chicane, the circuit’s best overtaking spot, before he was able to pass on Lap 60.
In the end, Norris crossed the finish P3-- equalling his best result in F1, and certainly making up for the turbulent qualifying he had.
“I’m happy, a nice recovery after yesterday, It was a long race, a tough one,” Norris said in the post-race interview. “I didn’t start so well you know, it was a tough start. I came back through, I had good pace.”
“I tried hanging on to second, but Lewis was a bit too quick for me today. It’s nice to be fighting these guys, it’s nice to be there on merit, and there on pure pace.”
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said in a post-race interview with Sky Sports F1 that he was happy with Norris’ performance, and that the weekend continued to show how good of a car the team had put together.
Seidl said, “Lando is flying at the moment, he definitely made the next step as a driver.”
Driver of the Day Analysis:
-- Vote Breakdown --
- Lando Norris - 32.3%
- Max Verstappen - 15.5%
- Lewis Hamilton - 13.9%
- Charles Leclerc - 7.2%
- Carlos Sainz - 4.9%
Norris took the title of Driver of the Day by a considerable margin, winning almost a third of all votes. When taking into account his great overtaking and stunning final result, it’s easy to see why he impressed viewers during Sunday’s race. He performed exceptionally well in the wet and kept it clean throughout the race-- he avoided a trip into the gravel traps entirely.
Ultimately, I feel that his battle with Hamilton is what really set him apart from the rest. It may be difficult to overtake at Imola, but fending off a seven-time World Champion in a better car for multiple laps in a row is a sight to behold nonetheless.
The top five selections for Driver of the Day happen to mirror the top five finishers of the race itself. Verstappen was certainly a worthy selection, having won the race and truly taken control of it from early on. His start was incredible, having gone from P3 to P1 by the end of the Tamburello chicane. Hamilton made a rare mistake which lost him his shot at the race win, however, his recovery to P2 was an impressive sight. Ferrari’s Leclerc and Sainz both had good races, having finished P4 and P5 respectively, and are both proving that the team is competitive after an unsuccessful 2020.
In the end, my vote lies with the majority: Lando Norris had an incredible race, proving that he is no longer a novice, but a true competitor on the grid.
This is the first of many installments of my “Driver of the Day Analysis” series! If you enjoyed this one and are interested in reading about each race weekend’s Driver of the Day winner, be sure to follow to make sure you don’t miss out!