Lando Norris identified as most ‘consistent challenger’ to Max Verstappen by Red Bull | F1 News

Lando Norris has “emerged from the pack” as the most “consistent challenger” to Max Verstappen with Red Bull expecting the McLaren driver to remain a big threat to them at their home Austrian GP this weekend.

Verstappen and Norris have finished in the top two positions at five of the past six grands prix.

Although the reigning champion has won five of those races to Norris’ one, the McLaren driver finished on the Red Bull driver’s tail at Imola, Montreal and, last Sunday, Barcelona to suggest he could still yet prove a genuine title threat to Verstappen over the 14 races that remain in the record-length 2024 season.

Norris’ latest runner-up finish in Spain moved him ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc into a career-best second place in the Drivers’ Championship, with the 24-year-old trailing Verstappen by 69 points.

And reflecting on his driver’s narrow two-second victory over Norris at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “If Lando would have had track position it would have been difficult to beat them.

“It was so close between the two of them and they were 18 seconds ahead of the rest.

“I would say that Lando has emerged from the pack as the most consistent challenger.”

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Horner added: “We’ve had four pole winners in the last four races. It’s very, very tight.

“But Lando I would say, he seems to have worked out these tyres, McLaren have done a great job as well, and they’re going to push us hard for the rest of the year.”

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Watch as George Russell and Norris battle for P2 at the Spanish Grand Prix

Norris, who won his maiden grand prix at the start of May at the Miami GP, has now finished second 10 times in races – nine times as runner-up to Verstappen – since McLaren introduced their transformative car upgrade at last year’s Austrian GP.

A lap of the Red Bull Ring takes little over 60 seconds to complete and Horner said ahead of this weekend’s Sprint event: “On such a short lap, it’s going to be so tight and we expect McLaren and Lando to be fast again.

“Ferrari and Mercedes? Who knows. If you look at the gap to those guys after the race it was pretty similar to last year. The one who has stepped up is Lando.”

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Max Verstappen reflected on his thrilling performance to take the win at the Spanish Grand Prix

Indeed, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff – whose improving team finished third and fourth at Barcelona ahead of the Ferraris – acknowledged that Red Bull and McLaren currently are a step ahead of the field.

“The McLaren was very quick [in Spain]. How quick, I don’t know, I think Max always has a little bit in the pocket and you see that makes that difference,” said Wolff.

“But definitely there’s not a lot at the moment between these two and they are definitely setting the benchmark.”

Sky Sports F1’s live Austrian GP schedule

The Austrian Grand Prix takes place this weekend at the Red Bull Ring - live on Sky Sports F1

Thursday June 27
12.30pm: Drivers’ Press Conference

Friday June 28
7.50am: F3 Practice
9am: F2 Practice
11am: Austrian GP Practice One (session starts at 11.30am)
12.55pm: F3 Qualifying
1.50pm: F2 Qualifying
3pm: Austrian GP Sprint Qualifying (session starts at 3.30pm)*

Saturday June 29
8.25am: F3 Sprint
10am: Austrian GP Sprint (race starts at 11am)*
12.25pm: F2 Sprint
2pm: Austrian GP Qualifying build-up
3pm: Austrian GP Qualifying
5pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook

Sunday June 30
7.25am: F3 Feature Race
8.55am: F2 Feature Race
12:30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: Austrian GP build-up*
4pm: Chequered Flag: Austrian GP reaction*
5pm: Ted’s Notebook

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

F1’s triple-header continues at the Austrian Grand Prix this coming week – with the Sprint format returning at the Red Bull Ring. Watch every session live on Sky Sports F1, with Sunday’s big race at 2pm. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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