McLaren boss Zak Brown doesn’t see Lando Norris and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez as arch-foes on the track despite the pair dueling and banging wheels on several occasions this season.
Norris and Perez battled hard in Austria earlier this year which led to the McLaren driver being handed a five-second penalty by the stewards for running his opponent off the track.
The pair also made contact in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort when Perez bravely attempted to overtake his rival on the outside of Tarzan in the closing stages of the race, only for Norris to hold his own on the exit, much to the Mexican’s ire.
Despite the skirmishes, Brown doesn’t feel that a contentious rivalry is building between Norris and Perez.
“[With] Checo, I don’t think there’s a rivalry, really,” Brown told ESPN.
“I think they’ve had a couple of things. But if you asked me, who is Lando’s rival, I wouldn’t say it’s Checo.
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“I think they were racing incidents. I haven’t heard Lando speak angrily over him. I don’t think a rivalry is forming between them.”
Norris and Perez’s respective performance levels will perhaps position the two chargers in close proximity to each other on race day. But there’s no disputing that Norris’ stock is trending while Perez is struggling to remain among F1’s front-runners.
In Russia, Norris was three laps short of delivering a sensational second consecutive win to McLaren, a feat that mightily impressed Sky pundit Damon Hill.
“He didn’t win the race, he got pole position, but he drove absolutely magnificently under quite a lot of pressure from a seven-time World Champion behind him,” Hill said on the F1 Nation podcast.
“And with Carlos [Sainz] as well, he had a lot to deal with. I loved it when [Will Joseph, race engineer] came on the radio and said: ‘How much pace have you got in these tyres?’ and [Norris] said: ‘Well, what do you want? I can give you whatever you like’.
“He was very cool on the radio. I know he got a bit shirty at the end, but that’s because he didn’t want to be talked to when he was trying to concentrate on driving on slicks in the wet, but you can understand that. I think he was a star.”
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The 1996 F1 world champion believes Norris unequivocally “made his mark” in Sochi.
“He missed out in Monza, Daniel [Ricciardo] stole the show there and I think that Lando probably felt slightly aggrieved that he’d done so well all season, and it wasn’t him to win the race,” Hill added.
“Then there he was, leading in Russia and, sadly, didn’t quite get to the line but he’s made his mark, hasn’t he? He really has shown what he’s capable of.”
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