Verstappen: Norris is in the championship mix

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Red Bull’s Formula One leader Max Verstappen recognised Lando Norris as a growing title threat on Thursday after the McLaren driver’s run of a win and two second places from the last three races.

Verstappen has won five out of seven so far this season, with a record run of eight pole positions, but the triple world champion accepted ahead of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix that Norris was closing the gap.

When asked about Norris’s recent reported comments about not ruling out becoming a title contender, Verstappen said “everyone should think like that.

“After their last few races they [McLaren] are really in the mix,” he told reporters. “Of course they are quite a few points down at the moment but if they suddenly start winning, that can turn around quite quickly.”

Former champions McLaren have made impressive gains since Austria in July last year, with Norris taking six second places in the rest of the season, and have continued to make stellar progress.

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Norris took his first F1 win in Miami this month after finishing second in Shanghai. He was also second at Italy’s Imola circuit last weekend and third in Australia in March.

The Briton has been on the podium in four of the last five races and not finished lower than eighth.

With Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, he is one of only two drivers apart from Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez to have won since 2022.

Norris, fourth overall, is still a hefty 60 points behind Verstappen with 17 rounds remaining. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is currently the champion’s closest rival, 48 points adrift.

Verstappen won 19 of 22 races last year in the most dominant season on record but Ferrari and McLaren have both won one each this campaign.

“We have not thought about it [the championship] at all over the last four weeks. You concentrate on getting a good result and things just play out for themselves,” said Norris separately. “We have definitely put ourselves in there.

“We lost a lot [of points] over the first couple of weekends, so that’s hurt us, but we are about a third of the way through, so there are plenty of opportunities for us.

“We know we still have some things coming in the future, and if things turn around then we can easily start to come back at some of the teams.

“We’re probably the team, along with Ferrari at least, where we have two cars up there performing at every single session and every single race in qualifying.”

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