Lando Norris on Miami: Augusta birdies and keeping trophy in IKEA cupboard

Lando Norris – Lando Norris: Augusta birdies, jump-starting Lamborghinis and keeping trophy in IKEA cupboard
Lando Norris says the victory in Miami gives him more hope of challenging Red Bull in the future - Getty Images/Song Haiyuan

Lando Norris does not much enjoy being famous. The constant attention and camera phones and autograph hunters when he is out and about. But there are some perks to being recognised. A few days after his maiden Formula One victory in Miami two weekends ago, Norris broke down near to his home in Monaco in his Lamborghini Miura.

“Yeah, first world problem,” the McLaren driver admitted, smiling, in Imola yesterday, when discussing the pros and cons of his growing celebrity. “I had a problem with my Miura. It didn’t start. But then some fans recognised me and pushed my car and bump-started it down the hill. I was like ‘Mega!’ Maybe if I hadn’t won that race, they wouldn’t have recognised me. So it worked for me that time.

“I’m definitely getting noticed more since Miami,” he added.

Norris is aware that might make him sound big-headed. But he is adamant that his win, which came at the 110th attempt, will not change him. “It was a quick high but it’s over now,” he insisted ahead of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where he will try to take the fight to Red Bull and Max Verstappen again. “It doesn’t change how I approach this weekend. If anything it probably just gives me a bit more confidence that I can repeat it.”

Norris was in excellent form as the sport reconvened in Imola yesterday; amusing on his big night out in Miami – where the 24 year-old took in burlesque bars, and rubbed shoulders with NBA and NFL stars – and his round at Augusta National the following day. “If there’s one place you need to make sure you do sleep before you play a round of golf, it’s probably Augusta,” he joked. “I was thankful I was off the visitors tees.”

Was it all a blur of azaleas and dogwood? Was he seeing three balls on every shot? “Haha. A couple of times. No, I remember everything. I wasn’t that far gone.”

Norris actually got to play Augusta twice, on successive days. He even birdied the famous par-three 12th the first time round (despite seeing double) although he did find Rae’s Creek the following day. “I just wanted to do what all the greats had done,” he said. “The first day I birdied 12, so the second day I was like ‘I’ve basically completed 12, so I’ll try the water this time.’”

After getting back to the UK last week, Norris visited the factory in Woking to celebrate with the workforce there, and drop off the trophy. He gets a replica, which he said he would keep at home. Anywhere special? “I’ve got a little IKEA cupboard.”

So, does he expect to be challenging Red Bull again this weekend? Norris hopes so. He admits he got lucky with the safety car in Miami, but even before that his pace was better than the Red Bull. And he described McLaren’s rate of improvement as better than that of all their rivals. “Imola has generally been a good track for us,” he added. “Medium speed. Some high speed. There’s a chance, but I know some of the other teams have upgrades.”

Norris hits back at critics

It is refreshing to hear Norris speak so confidently. The Briton normally prefers to underpromise and overdeliver, although he said he could not win on that front. The social media trolls he referenced in his post-race press conference in Miami, who he said had helped to motivate him by calling him “Lando No-Wins”, were back again, this time accusing him of being too cocky.

“I went through all the comments liking all the bad ones,” he revealed. “One said ‘This guy has won one race and his ego has gone through the roof’. I liked it, and I was like ‘yes, it has’.

“You can’t please everyone. If I’m not confident, people are like, ‘You have got no faith in the team’. But the minute I say ‘We can win more races’, which I already said at the beginning of the year, people are like ‘Woah, calm down hotshot!’

“At the end of the day, my mechanics, my engineers read what I say. And I understand that now more than I used to a couple of years ago. Winning motivates them more. And me having confidence in them motivates them more.”

Norris still has a long way to go in his own mind before he ‘makes it’. It was only one win. There is a long way to go, even in his car collection. The Miura, he said, was one thing. Probably his current favourite. But what he truly covets is a Pagani Zonda, which can sell for upwards of $10 million (£7.8 million). Lewis Hamilton used to own one.

“That’s like another level, Paganis,” he said. “I’m not quite there just yet. If I can win some more races maybe I’m not a mile away. Since I was a kid and I watched Gumball and all of that stuff, Pagani is my dream car. It’s on my bucket list. But I have to win several more races to even be close to getting one of them.”