Lando Norris 'ready to rival' Max Verstappen for F1 world title

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 25: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing speaks to  Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren ahead of final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco at Circuit de Monaco on May 25, 2024 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Max Verstappen believes Lando Norris is ready to rival him for the world championship as the Red Bull driver cast doubt on his own chances at the Monaco Grand Prix. After his maiden victory in Miami, Norris chased Verstappen all the way to the chequered flag in Imola, finishing less than a second behind the Dutchman.

Norris, from Somerset, is 60 points off the title pace ahead of this weekend's race in the principality, but Verstappen said: "He (Norris) is really in the mix. He is quite a few points down but if they suddenly start winning, that can turn around quite quickly. But from our side we just have to focus on ourselves because that is the only thing in our control.

"It has closed up which makes it very important to be at our very best, and 100 per cent. We need to be on it. Imola started off badly and we managed to turn it around but I wouldn't want to have a weekend like that again."

Verstappen is a two-time winner on Formula One's most famous streets, but speaking ahead of the eighth round of the season, he fears the unique layout will not suit his Red Bull machinery. Verstappen added: "It is a different track and it is not going to be our best track because our car struggles off the kerbs and in the low speed.

"We have worked on that and improved it in recent years, but I don't think it is going to be a very easy weekend. Ferrari have been strong here in the past, and McLaren have ramped up their performances in the past two races."

-Credit:Getty Images
-Credit:Getty Images

The British driver, 24, said: "I am what, 60 points behind Max? It is a long way to go and our recent results don't change anything.
"We have not thought about it (the championship). We have put ourselves in there. We lost a lot of points at the first few races of the year and that has hurt us but we are only a third of the way through the season, so there are plenty of opportunities for us. We know there will be some things coming in the future, and if turns around we can start to come back at the other teams."

Charles Leclerc delivered under pressure to put his Ferrari on pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix. Leclerc was the favourite heading into Saturday's crucial qualifying session in Monte Carlo and the homegrown star held his nerve to take top spot.

The Monegasque saw off McLaren's Oscar Piastri by 0.154 seconds, with Carlos Sainz third in the other scarlet car and Lando Norris fourth. Max Verstappen, who was bidding to take a record ninth consecutive pole, could manage only sixth after he hit the wall on the exit of Sainte Devote.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will start either side of the Red Bull driver after they qualified fifth and seventh respectively for Mercedes. Leclerc has failed to convert his previous two poles in Monte Carlo into a victory. But, with overtaking notoriously difficult on the unique 2.1-mile course, he will still start as strong favourite to take the win.

Verstappen has been in a class of one over a single lap this season, but the triple world champion warned in the build-up to this weekend's race that the street venue would not suit his machinery and his worse fears were realised.