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Norris can beat Verstappen in straight fight but ‘many races ending in tears’ - Brown

Zak Brown says McLaren Formula 1 driver Lando Norris can beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen “in a straight fight”, but fears in those battles “many races would end in tears”.

Press Conference
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, and Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Norris led home Verstappen in F1’s most recent race in Miami – the Briton gaining from a mid-race safety car just as he appeared to be growing into a victory threat and with Verstappen having damaged his Red Bull.

The result has raised hopes of further battles between the pair now McLaren has made a step forward with its upgraded 2024 car, as occurred for much of the second half of the 2023 campaign – albeit with Verstappen typically enjoying a car performance advantage.

McLaren boss Brown was asked for his thoughts on the outcome of a potentially closer Norris and Verstappen fight at last weekend’s Monaco Historique Grand Prix event.

Brown was racing his 1980 Alan Jones-driving Williams FW07B, while McLaren paraded several cars driven by the legendary Ayrton Senna on the 30th anniversary of his death at Imola in 1994.

“I do think Lando can beat Max in a straight fight,” Brown said in an exclusive interview with Autosport.

“I think it would be an awesome fight, I think many races would end in tears – for one or the other, or both.

“But I think as far as raw talent can be, I’ve not seen someone faster than Lando.

“I’m sure Max is just as fast, I’m sure some people will disagree and ultimately, we’ll never know until you see them in the same car.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, congratulates Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 1st position, in Parc Ferme

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, congratulates Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 1st position, in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

“But, from everything I can see of Lando, I don’t see a faster racing driver out there.

“What’s exciting is Oscar [Piastri] can match him. As he gets more experience I think he’ll match him more often.”

Brown also believes Norris will now “take yet another step forwards” in terms of his personal results after clinching his first F1 win in his 110 GP starts, following a series of near-misses back in 2021.

“For sure,” said Brown. “There’s something about when drivers get their first win.

“I remember from when I got my first win, now you know you’ve done it [the first win] just relaxes drivers and they don’t have to try as hard. In anything, you can try too hard and that kind of works against you.”

Norris’s first F1 victory follows his decision early in 2024 to sign another contract extension with McLaren.

This ties him to the team for almost a decade, from the start of his F1 career until the contract ends in 2027.

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Brown said Norris was “very loyal” but had been convinced to re-sign by McLaren’s efforts to improve its initially disappointing 2023 F1 car into what ended up being a sprint race winner with Piastri, plus the work of then first-year team principal Andrea Stella.

“People need to be loyal to their careers, but loyalty will only take you so far,” said Brown.

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“But I think he saw the turnaround we made last year, with his belief in Andrea Stella, his belief in the entire team – it’s family, he loves the McLaren brand.

“But, most importantly, I think he has confidence we’re going to give him a race-winning car and last weekend, we did. That has only raised his confidence even further.”

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