The new Formula 1 season got underway in Australia yesterday (17 March), and there were strong showings from Lando Norris and George Russell, with both out-performing their teammates.
Norris, a multiple BRDC British F3 race winner in 2016 was one of the stars of qualifying, as he powered into the final Q3 segment and ultimately posted the eighth fastest time, 10 places ahead of his vastly more experienced team mate Carlos Sainz Jr.
In the race, he dropped a couple of positions in the opening stages, but ran as high as seventh before the first round of pit stops. He was then unfortunate to be stuck in a train of cars behind the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi who was on a different strategy, with the time lost meaning he was forced to settle for 12th place at the chequered flag.
Norris commented: “The team gave me a good car, with enough pace for me to be in the top 10 but I made a couple of mistakes which cost me any chance of scoring points, so I’m a little disappointed. But it’s cool to finish my first [F1] race and get it out of the way.
“I didn’t make the perfect start, struggled to get ahead of a slower car and then had a big lock-up so I need to work on these mistakes. I’m annoyed with myself as there was more potential. Now I focus and look forward to Bahrain.”
Russell, the 2014 BRDC F4 champion, also enjoyed a strong debut, though the pace of his Williams Mercedes meant he wasn’t able to join the midfield scrap. Russell out qualified his teammate, the returning Robert Kubica, by a considerable margin after the Polish driver made a mistake, and then had a clear run in the race to finish 16th, a lap ahead of Kubica who had to pit early to replace a damaged front wing.
Russell said: “I feel happy that I brought the car home with no dramas. I physically feel fine and it was a good first race from my side but obviously it is disappointing that we are so far behind the pace. We did an additional pitstop to try all three compounds of the tyres, so that is unfortunately where we are at the moment.
“We have got a lot of work to do tomorrow to understand and hopefully improve from there. I am not interested in fighting Robert for last, we need to work together to make this right. Overall, I can be proud and pleased with myself because we went into this weekend knowing what to expect and I achieved pretty much all of my goals.”
The pair will be back in action in two weeks’ time in Bahrain.
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