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Barcelona: Norris and Leclerc’s Drama: but Max vs. Lando was the Main Show

There was plenty to talk about with incidents between drivers in Barcelona. Charles Leclerc was involved in two incidents and certainly wanted to make his view known on both.

But for all the words, there is no mistaking that the main show in Barcelona was between Max Verstappen and Lando Norris. McLaren have become the team to watch and Norris the driver to watch. It’s exciting and producing thrills for the fans as Norris puts pressure on Verstappen’s dominance this season.

That’s what Charles Leclerc fans want of the Ferrari team, particularly after Charles’ magical feat of winning the Monaco Grand Prix. It’s not the time for Ferrari to slip back into “also ran” mode..”

So what were the incidents surrounding Charles in Barcelona that stirred up a bit of controversy.

Norris Pranged by Leclerc in Free Practice

During the final practice on Saturday, Charles Leclerc collided with Lando Norris’ car while trying to move off the racing line. Leclerc had to abandon his timed lap when Norris slowed in front of him. Shortly after, Leclerc also decelerated and ended up clashing wheels with Norris.

The race stewards decided against penalizing Leclerc, concluding that he had simply misjudged the situation. Leclerc later recounted the event from his perspective. “It’s straightforward,” he said. “Lando came out of the pit lane, and I was on a push lap behind him. When he slowed down, I did too. I miscalculated when I tried to avoid the cars behind, leading to our collision. It was more of a misunderstanding.”

Norris secured pole position later that day. TV cameras and the press captured his reaction when Max Verstappen informed him that Leclerc received only a reprimand for the incident. “My front wing was completely messed up. Crazy!” Norris was caught remarking in disbelief.

Sainz and Leclerc Play Bumping Cars

In Barcelona in Sunday’s main race, Carlos Sainz overtook Charles Leclerc on the fourth lap, with their cars briefly touching. Leclerc later claimed the move caused significant damage to his vehicle.

It was a small damage but everything makes a difference. When you see how close Ferrari were at the end it’s a shame.

Sainz, who is set to leave Ferrari at the end of the 2024 season and be replaced by Lewis Hamilton, is actively seeking a new team. Leclerc acknowledges Sainz’s motivation to impress but believes his teammate’s aggressive maneuver was inappropriate.

Despite their generally amicable relationship since becoming Ferrari teammates in 2021, this incident has sparked tension. Leclerc, who finished fifth just ahead of Sainz in this race won by Max Verstappen, stated, “We will have a discussion. I’m confident we’ll sort it out.”

Leclerc explained that the strategy was to conserve their tyres at that point in the race. “Carlos took that chance to overtake, which hurt us both by damaging my front wing. Even minor damage can make a big difference, especially when we’re so close at the finish.”

Leclerc was on Russell’s tail to try to take P4 on the final lap but the Mercedes driver managed to hold him off.

Charles added, “Carlos is eager to prove himself, but I wasn’t the right target for that move.” Leclerc also expressed frustration with Ferrari’s overall performance, saying, “We gave it our all, but our pace was lacking. We didn’t optimize our race as a team, and it showed.”

Barcelona Qualifying

In Qualifying, Charles Leclerc and home favourite Carlos Sainz had to settle for fifth and sixth as the main battle between Red Bull and McLaren played out.
And the winner of that battle was McLaren driver Lando Norris who secured the second pole position of his Formula 1 career. He came out on top in this epic battle with Red Bull rival Max Verstappen.

Norris, who hadn’t secured a pole position since the 2021 race at Sochi Autodrom, delivered a spectacular performance in Q3. He trailed Verstappen initially but then clocked an impressive 1m 11.383s lap, beating the Dutchman by a mere two hundredths of a second.

Meanwhile, Mercedes translated their strong practice form into a solid qualifying result. Lewis Hamilton edged out his teammate George Russell, securing P3 and P4 on the grid for Sunday’s race.

Sunday’s Main Race

Lando Norris might be hard on himself after the thrilling Spanish Grand Prix, where he felt he had given Max Verstappen an easy path to victory. Nonetheless, the British driver mounted a fierce challenge, pushing the Dutchman all the way to the finish line.

Verstappen crossed the finish in Barcelona just 2.2 seconds ahead of Norris, who drove relentlessly to close the gap to his Red Bull rival twice during the 66-lap race.

Inside his helmet, Norris furiously chastised himself as his pole position advantage slipped away in the opening moments. Verstappen took the lead by lap three, while Norris was stuck behind Mercedes’ George Russell for 15 laps, making it difficult to catch up. This allowed Verstappen to control the pace and keep McLaren at bay.

Norris’ start was less than ideal, and by turn one, Verstappen had passed him while Russell surged ahead to take the lead. This proved to be the crucial moment, as Norris admitted, “I should have won but I messed up the start,” expressing a sentiment that he would likely echo more harshly later.

McLaren’s pit strategy further hindered Norris, with a slow stop costing him nearly a second. With 19 laps to go and a nine-second gap to Verstappen, Norris launched an aggressive charge, consistently clocking quick laps and reducing the gap to five seconds. Verstappen’s team urged him to pick up the pace, and he managed to hold Norris off until the end.

Despite finishing second, Norris moved up to second in the drivers’ championship, 69 points behind Verstappen with 14 races remaining—a gap the British driver believes he can close.

Austria next

The triple-header continues next week with the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. The event in Spielberg will host the third of six sprint weekends this season.

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