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Norris "fighting a losing battle" against quicker Ferrari F1 cars in Japan

McLaren's Lando Norris says he was "fighting a losing battle" against the quicker Ferraris as he dropped from third to fifth in Formula 1's Japanese Grand Prix.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Norris qualified close to the front-row starting Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez on Saturday.

But on Sunday it quickly became apparent Norris' real battle was with the cars behind, with Carlos Sainz being an immediate threat and Charles Leclerc fighting his way back into contention with a bold one-stop strategy.

Just seven months ago the McLarens comfortably claimed a double podium at Suzuka, but given Ferrari's vast race improvements, Norris admitted the Scuderia was out of reach this time around.

"It was as expected, to be honest with you," Norris said when quizzed by Autosport about sliding back to fifth.

"It was hard in the beginning when you're trying to push to keep up with a quicker car or push to stay ahead of the Ferraris, which were quicker.

"You hurt the tyres more and it's just kind of like a bit of a spiral, fighting a losing battle out there.

"So, not a bad day. We are where we kind of expected to be in the end, which is behind Ferrari. It's where we've been all year.

"Yesterday we just excelled, I put in some very strong laps, and made us look maybe a bit too good. And today it was a bit more back to reality."

Norris was the first of the frontrunners to stop on lap 12 to undercut Perez and, more importantly, prevent being undercut by the Ferraris.

But the score was levelled when Norris was right behind long-running Leclerc as the pair pitted together for the final pitstop, with Norris questioning at the time why he was brought in so early instead of going for a shorter final stint to try and push ahead.

"I think we did what was best at the time, but it's always hard to know. Maybe we didn't expect Charles to box? I'm not sure," Norris explained.

"He was close enough that you would kind of want to say, 'Yeah, if we did something different, maybe we had a better chance'.

"I think we covered George [Russell], which I feel like we maybe didn't need to do, and because we tried to cover George, we boxed at the same time as Charles.

"I for sure could have gone another five, six laps, created a tyre delta, and then come back through like Carlos did. So just an opinion, but it's something we'll discuss and review."

Watch: F1 2024 Japanese Grand Prix Review – Normal Service Resumed

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