Lando ramps up pressure in bid to sink Verstappen

lando ramps up pressure in bid to sink verstappen

Lando Norris signs autographs for fans in Monte Carlo (Picture: Getty Images)

Lando Norris says he can beat Max Verstappen this weekend, and won’t rule out a tilt at the F1 title.

Having won his first grand prix in Miami and pushed the triple world champion all the way to the finish line at Imola last weekend, the 24-year-old from Bristol and his McLaren team are mounting a surprise challenge against Red Bull’s winning machine.

‘It’s about time someone put [Max] under pressure and he felt a bit of nerves again,’ said Lando. ‘I’m sure he hasn’t felt it for a while.

‘I don’t want to be over-confident – that’s never been me – but we want to come into races now and be confident in racing against the Red Bull, racing against Ferrari, because we are in the mix with them.’

Norris is fourth in the standings, 60 points adrift of Verstappen, but it’s a long season and momentum is on his side. ‘We’re a third of the way through, we’ve a very long way to go,’ he added.

‘I would never say “no” any more. I’ve got fed up of myself kind of underestimating what we can achieve as a team.

‘We’ve had a very good run of results – second, first, second – and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to continue that here in Monaco. It’s not known to be our best track, but at the same time anything can happen.’

lando ramps up pressure in bid to sink verstappen

Lewis Hamilton arrives for the Monaco GP (Picture: Getty Images)

As always in Monaco, grid position will be key. Verstappen has been on pole for every round this season so far, and has gone on to win five out of seven races.

The McLaren has not been the RB20’s equal on Saturdays, but it’s recently had the edge on Sundays. With overtaking almost impossible, that might not be worth much here.

Also keep an eye on Ferrari, who have a quick car and, in local favourite Charles Leclerc, the fastest man in Formula One over one lap.

The Monegasque will be praying for an error-free home race. He’s scored two poles here in the past, yet his best result is only fourth – leading to talk of Leclerc suffering from a ‘Monaco curse’.

‘What would a podium mean to me? Not much,’ said Leclerc. ‘Second or third is not really something that excites me, so the win is what we need to target. I would be surprised if we are not in the mix for pole, at least.’

Red Bull have won the last three races here. To maintain their edge, they assigned a chunk of budget to develop a special maximum-downforce rear wing just for this weekend, and it appears to be a more extreme approach than McLaren and Ferrari are taking.

‘We did work on it a bit compared to last year,’ said Verstappen. ‘So far our low-speed performance has improved a little bit, [but] it’s probably not going to be our best track. I don’t think it’s going to be a very easy weekend.’

‘Monaco is never straightforward, even when you’re supposed to have the best car.’

lando ramps up pressure in bid to sink verstappen

McLaren’s Ayrton Senna-inspired car for Monaco (Picture: Shutterstock)

Senna tribute on special day for McLaren

Ayrton Senna was the most dominant driver around the Monte Carlo circuit, with six wins and some blistering pole positions for McLaren.

Sadly we won’t see a return of that period’s iconic red-and-white Marlboro look, but the team’s cars have got a special Senna livery this weekend inspired by the Brazilian’s famous yellow, green and blue helmet colours.

It is possible McLaren could win the Monaco GP and Indy 500 on the same day – a first for any manufacturer. Europe and America’s blue-riband races both take place on Sunday, with the 78-lap F1 race at 2pm and Indianapolis’ legendary 500-mile slog around the brickyard beginning at 5.45pm.

McLaren are competing in both, with former F1 driver Alexander Rossi their highest-placed Indy driver, starting fourth. Rossi has drunk the celebratory milk once before, in 2016, while McLaren previously claimed the spoils in 1974 and 1976.

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