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Japanese GP: Lando Norris says McLaren will discuss Suzuka strategy after Ferrari win out in podium fight

Would a different strategy have given Lando Norris a better chance of beating the Ferraris after starting ahead of them at Suzuka? "This is something we will discuss after in the briefing," says Norris after dropping from third to fifth

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Bernie Collins explains why McLaren bringing Lando Norris into the pits early twice cost them total race time overall at the Japanese GP.

Lando Norris admitted he felt as though he was "fighting a losing battle" and said McLaren would discuss their strategy choices in the Japanese GP after being overhauled by Ferrari in the fight for the podium.

Norris produced one of the performances of Saturday to qualify as the quickest non-Red Bull driver and held his grid position of third behind Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez through the race's two starts either side of a lap-one red flag.

But he eventually finished fifth after being overhauled by the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz, who had started just behind him in fourth, and Charles Leclerc, who made up for the disappointment of qualifying eighth to take fourth on a one-stop strategy.

"It was a tough race. Compared to the Ferraris, just not enough. I think everything fell back in line in terms of Red Bull, Ferrari and us," Norris told Sky Sports F1.

"It's a shame. It doesn't feel great when you start third and go backwards. It feels like you are fighting a losing battle against these guys because they can just do a lot more. They can go longer and extend and have a bigger tyre delta. It's hard to fight.

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Highlights of the Japanese Grand Prix from the Suzuka Circuit.

"We gave it a good shot and did what we could. We got the maximum points apart from the top two teams, which was all we could do."

McLaren initiated the first round of pit stops among the leading runners when they pitted Norris for the first time on lap 11 - with Sainz running five laps longer on the same strategy - before following the one-stopping Leclerc in for his second service on lap 26.

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"Charles did a good job to go that far on one set of tyres. It surprised me we boxed as early as we did because that put us in line with what Ferrari did," admitted Norris.

"We covered George [Russell], which I think we didn't need to do. This is something we will discuss after in the briefing. Maybe a discussion, if we could have done a better job for P4 but it's always difficult to make those decisions at the time, so tough."

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Lando Norris makes an impressive overtake on George Russell at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Nonetheless, Norris conceded: "Ferrari is clearly ahead. They have been ahead all year. They are still ahead. We've not changed anything all year, so there's no reason we should be ahead."

Stella: 'It was more about genuine car pace'

Explaining their strategy decisions with Norris' car, team boss Andrea Stella felt as though that Ferrari's superior pace ultimately told in the end result.

"I think there was no issues. Effectively, I think the final classification is in the pace competitiveness order, if you want," said Stella.

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Ted Kravitz is in the paddock to review all the biggest stories from the Japanese Grand Prix.

"We did try to go for the podium by stopping early, making sure we could keep the position ahead of Carlos, and then see also what was possible attacking Perez. But ultimately we saw throughout the race that there wasn't enough pace in the car. That's fair enough. It's a good reflection of the competitiveness at this stage of the season. We know we have work to do. We have upgrades coming, so we keep going.

"Good work by Charles and good work by Ferrari in making a one-stop possible. I think that was not possible today for us, and anyhow, it wasn't the fastest strategy.

"Good for Ferrari that they could keep the tyres for so long, but it wasn't about the one-stop or two, it was more about genuine car pace, like is very often the case here in Suzuka."

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Damon Hill analyses the difference between Max Verstappen's pole lap against Lando Norris' lap that puts his McLaren third on the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Did McLaren get their Norris strategy wrong?

Sky Sports F1 analyst and former race strategist Bernie Collins:

"You've got to feel disappointed to have lost to Charles Leclerc, who was significantly further back.

"Andrea Stella was saying that the one vs two stop doesn't make the difference and I think that's potentially correct.

"But what did make the difference was that Lando stopped four laps earlier than Carlos Sainz on the first stop and then 10 laps earlier on the second stop and, in a race where we are talking about significant degradation and losing significant amount of time on each lap, to have 10 extra laps on that final set is a big disadvantage in terms of total race time.

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Lewis Hamilton loses two grid places as he's overtaken by Lando Norris and Sergio Perez, back to back.

"I haven't done all the numbers yet, but it will have lost a significant amount of race time. So a lot of that 10 seconds [that Norris finished behind Sainz] will have been lost through sub-optimal pit stops.

"They will need to go back and look at the race that Ferrari did in terms of when they chose to do pit stops, not covering Russell, allowing that position to go, and then trying to do the overtake later. That is significant in terms of total race time."

Next up is the return of the Chinese Grand Prix on April 19-21, which is also the first Sprint weekend of the season. Watch every session live on Sky Sports F1 and steam every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership - No contract, cancel anytime

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