Austrian GP: Lando Norris earns in-race Lewis Hamilton praise; questions Sergio Perez penalty
Lando Norris caps superb fortnight at the Red Bull Ring by claiming his third podium finish of a stellar season; But the McLaren driver left questioning the stewards' decision to penalise him in wheel-to-wheel duel with Sergio Perez
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 04/07/21 11:06pm
Lando Norris was hailed as a "great driver" by Lewis Hamilton and took the plaudits of the pundits after capping a starring role at the Austrian Grand Prix with a third-place podium finish.
But the McLaren driver still finished Sunday's race with mixed emotions as he questioned whether the time penalty imposed on him by stewards for an early incident with Sergio Perez was justified, after it likely cost him a career-best second place.
In the latest chapter of a superb season, in which Norris remains the only driver to score points at every race and sits fourth in the world championship, the 21-year-old held his own against the Mercedes drivers behind the runaway Max Verstappen and finished between Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton for the fourth third-place finish of his short career.
- Race report: Verstappen stretches title lead as Norris also stars
- Host of drivers visit stewards after late Austrian GP drama
- Championship standings: Norris between Perez and Bottas
Norris had already surprisingly outqualified the Mercedes cars and Red Bull's Sergio Perez on Saturday for his first front-row start at the top level, and McLaren's first in nine years.
Enjoying a sensational Austrian weekend, the Englishman even drew praise from his seven-time title-winning compatriot during Sunday's race.
Having followed Norris through the first 20 laps before overtaking, Hamilton told his Mercedes team over the radio: "Such a great driver, Lando."
The Sky Sports F1 pundits also showered praise on McLaren's increasingly impressive protege.
Describing Norris as "absolutely a future world champion", Paul Di Resta said: "People always ask if a driver overdriving their car is possible. Well, I would say he got the maximum out of his car this weekend.
"Absolutely superb from qualifying, carrying that into the race.
"He was pushing Bottas all the way to the end and without that penalty, which I think was quite harsh on him, he would have been P2 on merit."
Watching on, 1996 world champion Damon Hill tweeted:
Penalty controversy: What Lando and Sergio said about their tussle
Norris certainly felt he had been hard done by in the stewards ruling, which said that he had not given Perez sufficient room in their lap-four tussle and so forced the Red Bull off the track.
Serving the five-second penalty before McLaren's crew started work on his car at his first pit stop, Norris slipped behind Bottas as a result although he regained one place when Hamilton's pace slowed with car damage.
But, in a case of what might have been, Norris ended up finishing the race within sight of the lead Mercedes.
"It's his risk to go around the outside. He knows there's gravel there," said Norris of Perez's move to Sky F1. "You watch every other junior series; every time someone tries to go around the outside and doesn't commit to it they end up in the gravel. I didn't even squeeze him off.
"You understeer around the corner anyway, he should have expected he wasn't going to make it. I don't know, I'm just annoyed because it cost us P2.
"Hamilton had a problem but we had the pace to be ahead of Bottas at least, especially in the second stint. Would have liked to be second and not third again, just cementing myself a bit more, so just a bit annoyed about that.
"It's lap one [after the restart], people are racing, and he's tried something that hasn't worked. His fault not mine."
Perez, who dropped down the order and later picked up penalties of his own for incidents with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, saw things rather differently.
"Obviously it was over the limit, but Lando got away and he didn't have any damage while I basically got my race ruined," the Red Bull driver told Sky F1. "I got some damage from the gravel I guess.
"It was a disaster, my race. It was not fair racing."
Penalty controversy: Karun Chandhok's Sky F1 analysis
In addition to the time loss, Norris also had two further penalty points applied to his superlicence - taking him up to 10 in total. Drivers who reach 12 points over a rolling 12-month period face an automatic race ban.
However the first two of those points collected by Norris, from last year's Styrian GP (July 12, 2020), expire before he competes again at the British GP on July 16. He will therefore arrive at Silverstone back on eight licence points.
Norris hails McLaren step as he explains first-stint gameplan
Although frustrated to lose out on an even better finish, Norris was still pleased to claim a podium having expected McLaren to struggle more relative to Mercedes on race pace than proved to be the case.
"We were definitely a bit quicker throughout the whole race than we were expecting," he said. "The Red Bull of Max was completely gone but Mercedes seemed to struggle a bit more this weekend and we seemed like a step closer.
"They fell back to us and we took a step forward but I also just pushed a lot more in that first stint. I knew if I could just go with them for those laps I could create the gap to the guys behind, then there was almost less risk from that even if my tyres degged [degraded] off.
"The car was so much better to drive from last weekend so we need to understand why. I know the reasons of why it was so much better but understanding how that was done.
"Was it the car set-up? Was it the wind? Was it the temperature, because it's a lot colder than last weekend, so all of these factors we need to take into account and they definitely helped us today.
"But also the car was good and the team did a really good job in improving everything and taking that step forward we needed.
Impressively, Norris has already scored more points after nine races this season than in either of his two previous F1 campaigns. He also remains fourth in the world championship ahead of Mercedes' Bottas and just three points behind Perez heading to his home Silverstone event.