Lando Norris admitted he was “surprised” to finish on the Formula 1 podium at Imola after fearing McLaren may not score one all season after the opening race in Bahrain.
McLaren endured a miserable start to the 2022 campaign as neither Norris nor teammate Daniel Ricciardo scored any points, finishing 14th and 15th. Norris said after the race the team was “a long way off” and he was “expecting pain”.
But Norris bounced back by finishing seventh in Saudi Arabia before both drivers scored points in Australia, giving the team confidence that Bahrain was more of an outlier result.
That belief was supported at Imola as Norris qualified third on Friday in the wet, before managing to pick up a podium in Sunday’s grand prix when Charles Leclerc’s spin with 11 laps to go promoted him to third place.
Speaking after the race, Norris revealed he had thought after Bahrain that McLaren might not score a podium all year, making it an unexpected result.
“I’m surprised I guess to be here, but it feels amazing,” Norris said.
“From where we were, what, three or four weeks ago in Bahrain, to be on a podium, I genuinely didn't think we would be on the podium all year after Bahrain. So it’s quite a shock.
“[It’s] maybe not surprising after the kind of progress we’ve made over the last month, but yeah, definitely not a podium, with how much quicker the Red Bulls and the Ferraris are.
“It's hard to ever imagine yourself on the podium, and a great result today would have been P5. But a few good things [happened] throughout this race, an amazing start to be ahead of the Ferraris, to stay out of the chaos which happened behind.
“I guess [it was] a lonely but a great race.”
The McLaren cars had finished fifth and sixth in the sprint race, but Norris was the team’s sole scorer after Ricciardo tangled with Carlos Sainz on the opening lap, leaving him to finish 18th.
While it seemed the McLaren was the third-quickest car at Imola, Norris thought it was “too difficult to say” if that was its true place in the pecking order as it “changes every weekend”.
"The Mercedes wasn't so bad this weekend,” Norris said.
“I think we were a little quicker than them, probably throughout. The Alfa Romeo was maybe quicker.
“[It] doesn’t really matter, we beat two cars who are probably a second a lap quicker than us: one ended up in the wall and one ended up in the gravel.
“So it doesn’t necessarily mean you have the third or fourth or fifth best car. I think we just executed a great race from our side. The car was good, and I had good confidence and that's all I needed.”