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Lando Norris: When and where is McLaren driver most likely to claim an elusive first F1 victory? | F1 News

With Lando Norris having become the Formula 1 driver to have claimed the most podiums without winning a race, Sky Sports F1 analyse if and when the Brit is likely to shed the unwanted record.

Norris provided more evidence of his huge talent by claiming the first McLaren podium of the 2024 season at the Australian Grand Prix last time out.

Despite not yet managing a race win, the 24-year-old Norris has quickly become one of F1’s biggest stars, with his profile making him the obvious heir to Lewis Hamilton as the face of motor racing in Britain.

However, there is little doubt that to continue his ascent – both on and off the track – Norris will need to establish himself as a winner.

Ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, the 108th start of Norris’ career, Sky Sports F1 analyse how he has reached this point and the factors that will impact if and when his wait for victory comes to an end.

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Lando Norris jokes he is considering getting his appendix removed after Carlos Sainz’ victory at the Australian Grand Prix!

Norris takes over the record no one wants

At least temporarily then, Norris is the subject of one of F1’s more unwanted statistics.

That may be a relief for Germany’s Nick Heidfeld, the former Sauber and Williams driver who had held the record outright since 2011 for the most podiums without a win.

‘Quick Nick’, as he was dubbed, had already been tied since 2009 on 12 winless podium appearances with Sweden’s Stefan Johansson before moving out on his own on 13 via a third-placed finish at the 2011 Malaysian GP with Lotus-Renault.

Of course, the good news for Norris and the bad news for the retired Heidfeld – whose final F1 season proved to be that 2011 campaign – is that the Briton will still have plenty of opportunities in the sport to do something about passing that record back to its previous holder.

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Golfer Tommy Fleetwood and F1 driver Lando Norris went head-to-head in the DP World Driver vs Driver GP challenge!

In further statistical encouragement for Norris, four drivers – Mika Hakkinen (20 career wins, two world titles), Eddie Irvine (four wins), Patrick Depailler (two wins) and Jean Alesi (one win) – each appeared on 15 F1 podiums before finally climbing the rostrum’s top step.

Jenson Button wasn’t far behind that quartet in that regard, making 13 podium appearances before his breakthrough victory in Hungary in 2006. That came on the Briton’s 113th start – six more than countryman Norris has hitherto made – and he ended up with 15 victories in total plus the 2009 world title by the end of his distinguished career.

Nico Rosberg, the 2016 champion, claimed the first of his 23 victories on his 111th start, while the wait to climb the top step was significantly longer for Carlos Sainz (150th) and Sergio Perez, whose maiden win came at the 190th attempt.

How close has Norris come to winning?

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Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater sat down with Lando Norris in January to discuss his decision to commit his future to McLaren with a new multi-year deal

Although eight of his 14 career podium finishes have come since last July – including an impressive six second places – it has been unfortunate timing in many respects for Norris.

That’s because those strong results have coincided with Max Verstappen’s near-total dominance of the sport.

Red Bull’s world champion has won 19 of the last 21 races, many of them at a canter, and the drivers finishing in second and third have rarely had the cars to truly challenge him.

Although perhaps gallingly for Norris and many of the grid’s other leading names is the fact that on both occasions during that long sequence in which Verstappen didn’t win, it was Ferrari’s Sainz who beat them to it.

The first of those Sainz wins came last September in Singapore and, in terms of the final race deficit, that is statistically as close as Norris has come to a Grand Prix victory.

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George Russell crashes out on the final lap of a thrilling 2023 Singapore Grand Prix as Carlos Sainz holds on to win, with Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton completing the top three

The second-placed McLaren driver crossed the line just 0.8s behind the winning Ferrari, although Norris admitted himself afterwards there had been « no chance » of realistically passing Sainz around the tight Marina Bay circuit.

On a day when the name of the game for Sainz was track position rather than the size of his lead, the Spaniard spent the tense final stages of the race expertly managing the gap to Norris to ensure the McLaren was just close enough behind him to have DRS use to be able to fend off George Russell, who was running immediately behind him in turn.

The Mercedes was one of the leading trio on new tyres and Sainz knew that, should Russell overtake Norris, then he would be vulnerable too. In the end, Russell crashed on the penultimate lap and Sainz took the win just ahead of Norris.

So what therefore still stands as truly Norris’ greatest victory near-miss is the Russian GP of 2021.

On the weekend he became Britain’s youngest-polesitter, Norris led Hamilton at the front with three laps to go yet finished only seventh after suffering late-race heartache in the rain.

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Lando Norris’ race fell apart in the final stages at the 2021 Russian GP after a late downpour resulted in the McLaren driver spinning off the track and losing the lead

The McLaren driver’s race spectacularly unravelled on the decision not to pit for intermediate tyres as rain started to fall late on in Sochi. Like Norris, Hamilton was initially of the same mind to stay out on slicks but Mercedes overruled the seven-time champion and brought him in, whereas McLaren kept their less-experienced man out.

But with the rain only intensifying from there, Norris spun off the road at the first corner on his slicks with two laps to go, with Hamilton on his grippier tyres moving ahead and going on to secure his 100th win. By the time the McLaren was in the pits and put on the right tyres, it was all too little, too late.

« I’m unhappy, devastated in a way, » said Norris afterwards. « It was my decision, I thought it was the way to go.

« It was the wrong one at the end of the day but I made the decision just as much as the team. »

That Sochi race and agonising end result came two weeks after Norris had seen an unexpected first victory chance pass him by when he finished second to then-team-mate Daniel Ricciardo at Monza in what remains McLaren’s only race win since 2012.

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After winning the2021 Italian Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo celebrates by doing his traditional ‘shoey’ celebration

As was the case for most of their two years together, Norris had outqualified Ricciardo in Italy and lined up fourth for the Saturday Sprint. But he was beaten by the sister car in the 18-lap mini-race, a result which proved crucial to the outcome a day later.

With the results of the Sprint at that time setting the starting order for the Sunday Grand Prix, Ricciardo started as the lead McLaren on the main grid and as he took the race lead from pole-sitter Verstappen at the start, Norris dropped behind Hamilton, and the tone was set for the Australian to go on and claim his eighth career win.

Norris ended up finishing 1.7s behind Ricciardo in second after Verstappen and Hamilton’s second controversial collision of the season had taken both title contenders out, bringing out the Safety Car.

Piastri progression adds to challenge

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Catch McLaren driver Oscar Piastri take on the lie detector test

Also elusive for Norris has been a Sprint victory. The Brit has featured in 12 of the shorter-distance contests since their introduction to F1 in 2021, claiming two podiums and a pole position.

Ordinarily, the lack of a Sprint win probably wouldn’t be something that hugely bothered Norris, at least compared to chasing a Grand Prix win, but there is a significant caveat.

At last year’s Qatar Grand Prix, Norris’ then-rookie team-mate Oscar Piastri claimed McLaren’s first Sprint.

The impressive result for the Australian only served to highlight Norris’ continued wait to stand on the top step, with the Brit admitting afterwards that he was « hurt » to have made mistakes that cost him the chance to contest the win.

Perhaps more crucial than Piastri’s Sprint victory itself, was the 22-year-old confirming that he is a genuine threat to Norris on weekends when McLaren provide a car capable of challenging for victory.

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Oscar Piastri holds his nerve to claim his first Sprint win at the 2023 Qatar GP as Max Verstappen finishes second to secure his third world title

There is little doubt that Norris retains an advantage over Piastri in full-length races, when the Brit’s greater experience has repeatedly allowed him to better manage the tyres, but the gap is closing.

Piastri finished behind Norris in fourth at his home race in Melbourne last time out, with McLaren team principal Andrea Stella praising the Australian for delivering perhaps his most impressive race to date in terms of tyre management.

« If you think how much he has to cash in more in terms of improvement, » Stella said. « I think it looks very strong for the future from Oscar’s point of view. »

With both McLaren drivers tied to the team on long-term contracts, the ever-improving Piastri is only going to increase the pressure on Norris to reach the top of the mountain.

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Ride onboard as Lewis Hamilton eventually gets past Lando Norris after a brilliant tussle for second at the Circuit of the Americas last year

Where is a first win most likely to come in 2024?

Similarly to 2023, the McLaren is very strong in the high-speed corners but weak in the slow-speed turns which limits Norris’ chances of winning.

Red Bull are still clearly ahead and Ferrari have moved forward over the winter too, which automatically makes it harder for Norris or Piastri to stand on the top step of the podium.

That said, Norris was only three seconds behind Charles Leclerc at the Australian Grand Prix and six seconds adrift of race-winner Sainz before the final lap, when George Russell crashed heavily which brought out the Virtual Safety Car.

Ferrari are definitely catchable and Red Bull are not out of the question too, so McLaren could be a genuine threat on the high-speed tracks.

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Highlights of the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix from the Suzuka circuit

The Japanese Grand Prix this weekend will be the first opportunity, given Norris and Piastri both finished on the podium there just six months ago.

« Going back to last year, Suzuka was one of our best races with only the Red Bull ahead and we were clearly quicker than the Ferraris, » Norris told Sky Sports F1.

« But Ferrari have taken a big step this year and improved the high-speed corners, which was their weakness, so I’m expecting them to be more competitive and in the mix but Red Bull should be better too compared to Australia.

« I think we are there and it’s a track that will suit us but we still have weaknesses in the slow-speed corners. We are losing quite a significant amount of time, even in qualifying and consistently in the race compared to the Ferraris.

« We are trying to improve that and when we improve it, if we are able to then I would be confident in saying ‘yep, every weekend almost we can compete for podiums and against these top two teams’. We are just missing that little bit of magic in the slow-speed corners and that’s compromising us a lot.

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The McLaren pit crew capped off an incredible weekend at the Qatar GP in 2023 with the fastest pit stop in F1 history!

« When we have high-speed corners, we can make up for it but when we don’t, that takes us back to Bahrain and the first races of the season when we struggled to hide our weaknesses. »

In the summer, the Spanish, British and Belgian Grand Prix will also be chances for McLaren to perform well. However, everyone will have put several upgrades on their car by then which may change the pecking order or a team’s strengths. McLaren will be hoping to have improved their slow-speed performance come June and July.

The development race makes it harder to judge the second half of the season but the Dutch Grand Prix after the summer break and the Qatar Grand Prix near the end of the year will also suit McLaren’s current car strengths.

Sky Sports F1’s live Japanese GP schedule

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Look back at some of the most memorable moments to have taken place at the Japanese Grand Prix

Thursday April 4
4.30am: Drivers’ press conference

Friday April 5
3am: Japanese GP Practice One (session starts at 3.30am)*
6.45am: Japanese GP Practice Two (session starts at 7am)*

8.15am: The F1 Show*
10am: Japanese GP Practice One replay
11.30am: Japanese GP Practice Two replay

Saturday April 6
3.15am: Japanese GP Practice Three (session starts at 3.30am)*
6am: Japanese GP Qualifying build-up*
7am: Japanese GP Qualifying*
9am: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook*
9.30am: Japanese GP Qualifying replay

Sunday April 7
5am: Grand Prix Sunday Japanese GP build-up*
6am: The JAPANESE GRAND PRIX*
8am: Chequered Flag: Japanese GP reaction*
9am: Ted’s Notebook*
9.30am: Japanese Grand Prix highlights*
10.30am: Japanese Grand Prix replay

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Japanese Grand Prix, live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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