Norris’ ‘haunting’ Russia 2021 F1 defeat can be «put behind us now»

The British driver had looked on course for his first F1 victory in Sochi in 2021 having secured his first pole position and led from the front, only to make a critical strategy error and stay out on slicks as a deluge of rain hit the circuit in the dying laps.

That error of judgement has stuck with Norris, Joseph and the McLaren team, not least with taunts over social media — though Norris himself suggested he enjoyed and indeed used such jibes to spur him on.

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Speaking to Sky Sports F1 after Sunday’s Miami GP, Joseph conceded: «It feels like a long time coming, especially after Russia. It’s good. It haunts me every time, it haunts me in my sleep.

«I feel like we can put that behind us now. What a fantastic race. We discussed after qualifying the decisions we made and we weren’t so sure. I think I’ll go back to him and say that maybe, they were the right ones.»

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella has been adamant since taking his role that Norris’ lack of wins in F1 was more down to the team’s ability to provide machinery good enough rather than his driver’s own ability.

«We were totally convinced that the gap to the victory for Lando,» he said. «It wasn’t on Lando, it was on the team. We needed to provide him with winning material and as soon as we did it, he achieved it.

«So that’s for me a testament to how ready he was, and also if we look at what he delivered in podiums with a car that sometimes wasn’t really a podium finisher on merit, for me Lando is on a very strong journey.»

Lando Norris, McLaren

Lando Norris, McLaren

Photo by: Erik Junius

Harking back to Russia, Stella added: «That was even a bit of a turning point for Lando himself and for the team in terms of how we have to operate when the pressure rises and in terms of how we have to collaborate to make good decisions by bringing the unique information you have while you are on track and the unique information you have while you are on the pitwall.

«But if I go back to that race, I think the responsibility is on the pitwall because we didn’t enforce the call to pit enough. The driver on track, he doesn’t see if it’s raining somewhere else, we could see it, so it was our limitation in not forcing Lando to pit.

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«So I think even in that case, he was delivering the job but we were not ready in a way as a team to achieve the victory and achieving victories is never easy.»

Norris’ victory means that Red Bull has failed to win two races already this season, having been beaten only once last term.

But with its dominant streak fresh in the mind, Stella insisted: «If we look at what Red Bull have achieved, I never under-evaluate what they have achieved. I always like to take my hat off, because there are so many ways in which it can go wrong and for them to be so successful with such a sequence of victories is just amazing.

«I think we are just started with this kind of journey and hopefully we will have more of these days in the future.»

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