Max Verstappen expects Lando Norris to provide stern world title challenge

PA Ready, Imola, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Miami, Ayrton Senna, Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, British, Monte Carlo

Max Verstappen, left, is 60 points ahead of Lando Norris in the drivers’ standings (Luca Bruno/AP) (AP)

Max Verstappen believes Lando Norris is ready to rival him for the world championship as the Red Bull driver cast doubt on his own chances at the Monaco Grand Prix.

After his maiden victory in Miami, Norris chased Verstappen all the way to the chequered flag in Imola, finishing less than a second behind the Dutchman.

Norris is 60 points off the title pace ahead of this weekend’s race in the principality, but Verstappen said: “He (Norris) is really in the mix.

“He is quite a few points down but if they suddenly start winning, that can turn around quite quickly.

“But from our side we just have to focus on ourselves because that is the only thing in our control.

“It has closed up which makes it very important to be at our very best, and 100 per cent. We need to be on it.

“Imola started off badly and we managed to turn it around but I wouldn’t want to have a weekend like that again.”

Verstappen is a two-time winner on Formula One’s most famous streets, but speaking ahead of the eighth round of the season, he fears the unique layout will not suit his Red Bull machinery.

Verstappen added: “It is a different track and it is not going to be our best track because our car struggles off the kerbs and in the low speed.

“We have worked on that and improved it in recent years, but I don’t think it is going to be a very easy weekend.

“Ferrari have been strong here in the past, and McLaren have ramped up their performances in the past two races.”

Norris’ McLaren team are sporting a one-off Brazilian livery in tribute to former driver Ayrton Senna 30 years after his death.

Norris, who moved to Monaco at the end of 2021, has finished on the podium once in Monaco before.

The British driver, 24, said: “I am what, 60 points behind Max? It is a long way to go and our recent results don’t change anything.

“We have not thought about it (the championship). We have put ourselves in there.

“We lost a lot of points at the first few races of the year and that has hurt us but we are only a third of the way through the season, so there are plenty of opportunities for us.

“We know there will be some things coming in the future, and if turns around we can start to come back at the other teams.”

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