Lando Norris heads into this weekend’s returning Japanese Grand Prix on the back of an almost disastrous Singapore Grand Prix, where McLaren became concerned that the British driver was going to be disqualified.
The 22-year-old performed superbly around the wet streets of Singapore, where he claimed his first top five finish since his podium at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
His fourth-place finish and Daniel Ricciardo’s fifth place finish saw the Woking-based team jump rivals Alpine in the fight for P4 in the Constructors’ Championship, with just five races remaining.
It could’ve very easily been zero points for Norris at the Marina Bay Circuit, though, as his team informed him during the race last weekend to take a different line at Turn Six due to concerns that the Brit was going to exceed the FIA’s aerodynamic oscillation metric, introduced to eliminate porpoising.
Since the metric was introduced, which measures a car’s vertical G-force, porpoising hasn’t really been seen anything like what it was at the start of the season.
Any driver found to have exceeded the metric, which was introduced at the Belgian Grand Prix, faces potential disqualification from the necessary session.
Norris squashed the team’s fears about disqualification after the race, where he revealed it was “just bumps”.
“It’s just bumps,” Norris told Sky.
“It’s a certain amount of how hard you can hit the ground.”
The metric was introduced more to improve drivers’ health rather than to affect performance, with Sir Lewis Hamilton having experienced severe spinal pain at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix following the most extreme porpoising seen all year.
Norris elaborated on what the team were concerned about, in regard to the “rule”.
“Some laps, I was hitting bigger bumps than others and obviously there’s the rule with how much you’re allowed to bump with the new rules of porpoising and stuff,” Norris explained.
Obviously, Norris avoided exceeding the metric and went on to finish above Ricciardo as per usual, in what was the team’s first double top five finish of the season.
The Brit was “just happy” to beat both Alpine’s, who suffered a shocking double DNF.
“I’m just happy I got Fernando – that was the main task,” said Norris.
“It was not to finish ahead of Max [Verstappen] or whatever, but to be ahead of Fernando. I mean, [the Alpines] both retired in the end, so it probably didn’t make too much difference. But those kind of things are what we need right now.”
This weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix represents a chance for McLaren to extend their four-point lead over the French team in the Constructors’, in what is a weekend that is “incredibly enjoyable”.
It is looking set to be an extremely wet weekend at Suzuka, which saw the entirety of the first day’s running completed using mainly the full Wet tyres.
Norris ended FP1 in P8 and FP2 in P16, in what were very challenging conditions to adjust to.
To Norris’ dismay, Fernando Alonso topped FP1, with the veteran driver making the most of the treacherous conditions.
Ahead of the first day at Suzuka, Norris highlighted what makes the legendary Japanese circuit so unique, with the 22-year-old having finished P11 on his only appearance at the track in 2019.
“I think the best thing here is just the flow to the circuit,” Norris said.
“You’ve got to have a good variance of corners – high-speed, low-speed, some very tight chicanes like the last chicane, the tight hairpin in the middle. But the rest of it is just you have one corner and you go straight into another.
“It’s not like you have kind of one corner – straight – another corner – straight. It’s just you come out of one and you’re preparing straight away for the next one. As soon as you kind of get one part a little bit wrong, it generally continues into the next one.
“It’s just, especially in a Formula 1 car, incredibly fast, incredibly enjoyable. Just a lot of fun – not a lot of run-off, gravel in most places, so you get punished for making mistakes. That’s sometimes not always what we like, but generally as a driver is what you want.”