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Norris: "Nothing pointed" to McLaren's shock China F1 form

Lando Norris says "nothing pointed" to McLaren's surprise form in Formula 1's Chinese Grand Prix.

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 2nd position, on the podium

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Norris took pole for the sprint and while he went off at the start and struggled with tyre wear throughout the 19-lap event, the Briton did excel in Sunday's grand prix.

Aided by the timing of a mid-race safety car for him to bolt on hard tyres, Norris comfortably held off the Red Bull of Sergio Perez to claim second behind Max Verstappen, clinching his 15th career podium.

McLaren's form was a positive surprise as the team was expecting the weekend to be an exercise in damage limitation, given the Shanghai circuit's bias towards slow, long corners on top of a long straight - all elements the MCL38 isn't particularly strong at.

Norris said the team is still as surprised as anyone at its pace in China, with no indication the weekend would be a lot better than first thought.

"We were just quicker than we thought. The limitations, the places we expected to struggle probably a lot more, we didn't struggle as much in," Norris said.

"These longer corners, like Turn 1, have always been a big weakness for us and part of Turn 1 was probably better than we're expecting. We're still learning about the car and the tarmac is quite odd, maybe that played into our hands a bit more.

"We're not making it up. We're giving our honest opinion on where we want to be. I think if we were to go into a weekend and we knew we were going to be strong, we'd say so.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

"But all year we've been behind Red Bull and Ferrari, so there's no reason for us to suddenly think we should be ahead. Nothing really pointed to us having an amazing race today."

Unlike Verstappen and Perez, Norris was yet to pit when Valtteri Bottas stopped in his Sauber on lap 20. But as race control delayed issuing a virtual safety car, Norris briefly feared he had missed his opportunity to make a pitstop as the VSC came out just after he passed pit entry.

"There were a few f-words and s-words and so on," Norris said. "It was obvious it was going to be a VSC but it just didn't come out.

"I was saying to myself, like, 'I bet it's going to come out as soon as I go around the last corner', and it literally did!"

However, a lengthy delay getting Bottas' stricken car craned away, which required a full safety car procedure, allowed Norris to gain track position on Perez after all, with the Mexican also having to pass Ferrari's Charles Leclerc on the restart.

"Things obviously went our way for sure, because it made the Red Bulls have to stop again. That obviously put me out ahead of Checo with the Ferrari in between us. That probably saved me a little bit."

Watch: F1 2024 Chinese Grand Prix Review – Verstappen dominates

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