Repeat of Miami performance may not be enough to beat Verstappen

Lando Norris expects it will be difficult to beat Max Verstappen to victory in Imola even if his McLaren is as competitive as it was at the last race.

The McLaren driver will share the front row of the grid for today’s race after his team mate Oscar Piastri was penalised.

Norris scored the first grand prix victory of his career in Miami two weeks ago, thanks in part to the timing of a Safety Car period. But despite the pace McLaren showed there and in practice at Imola, he said the characteristics of this circuit will make Verstappen hard to beat.

“It’s almost impossible to overtake here, especially when the gaps are so small,” said Norris. “You always try and take advantage of other people’s mistakes and struggles – as bad as it sounds, you try and take advantage of those times. Max hasn’t had the smoothest weekend, but I think if anyone doubted Red Bull or him coming back and doing a good job in qualifying, they’re a bit stupid.

“We expected them to be back on track. It’s annoying to miss out to him once again in qualifying but we’re close and I think we’re happy as a team with how we’ve all performed.

“If we can continue and have a strong race pace like we had [on Friday] and like we had in Miami, then I think we can all look forward to a good race.”

He believes there is little to choose between McLaren’s pace and that of other leading teams.

“We were very good [on Friday], but also in Imola when you see others, we didn’t do the quickest laps in these long runs. We were probably the most consistent, but a lot of others had traffic and things like that. So it’s close.”

Norris pointed out “it was also a bit colder” on Friday “so maybe if that kind of came back to us, that would be nice.”

“The whole weekend the car has been performing well and the team have been doing a good job,” he said. “But I don’t expect us just to have like an easy day. I think to overtake here is pretty much impossible. So that’s our first task.

“But at the same time, if we can pressure them and kind of keep on their toes throughout the whole race and have a performance like Miami, then I think we can be optimistic, of course. But just the overtaking and the strategy is probably a bit harder than what was in Miami.”

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