Formula 1: Lando Norris heartbreak adds to curious trend

Lando Norris, McLaren, Formula 1 (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Lando Norris, McLaren, Formula 1 (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) /

Lando Norris saw a first career Formula 1 victory fade away in the closing laps of last Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix at Sochi Autodrom.

The last few laps of the 2021 Russian Grand Prix saw a mixture of emotion for most neutral Formula 1 fans. While Lewis Hamilton secured his 100th career victory, McLaren young gun Lando Norris lost out what would have been his first career win after a superb drive.

Norris commanded the race from lights out and was able to establish himself as the lead driver throughout the race.

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While Hamilton was able to make it up to second place and caught Norris, the McLaren driver did not flinch and looked set for victory until the rain started to fall at Sochi Autodrom.

Mercedes brought Hamilton into the pits for intermediate tires on lap 49, and with every corner, the seven-time world champion was catching Norris until Norris tragically went off the track at turn seven.

Norris lost not just the lead, but any chance of a podium finish.

This meant that Hamilton took his 100th career win, with title rival Max Verstappen in second place after starting in 20th (last) place on the grid. Carlos Sainz Jr. claimed another podium finish for Ferrari in third.

As for Norris, it was utter heartbreak, as he led for most of the race and appeared to be in full control until the change of conditions led to a different outcome.

After the race, Norris was devastated at the outcome and told Sky Sports F1 the following.

"“We made a call to stay out and we stand by that. It was the wrong one at the end of the day but I made the decision just as much as the team.”"

But this is not the only recent example of a young charger being denied victory after looking primed to win.

Dubbed Formula 1’s “Twitch quartet” for their endeavors during the COVID-19 lockdown, Norris joins George Russell, Alex Albon and Charles Leclerc to lose out on would-be maiden wins.

Only last December, George Russell lost the Sakhir Grand Prix when he substituted for Hamilton at Mercedes. Russell beat teammate Valtteri Bottas at the start and was comfortably leading the race before a botched pit stop dropped him down the order.

The Brit then climbed his way back up to second place and was hunting down eventual race winner Sergio Perez until he picked up a tire puncture, which dropped him back down the order. He recovered to finish in ninth place.

Albon was denied victory when he made contact with Hamilton late in the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix. The then-Red Bull Racing driver was on better tires than the Mercedes in front of him and was primed to pass both Hamilton for second place and then Bottas for the lead and win. But contact with Hamilton meant that the Thai-British racer was denied victory.

This followed another disappointing race for Albon, when Hamilton crashed into the side of his car late in the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix when he was eyeing what would have been his first career podium finish.

The quartet of failed first Formula 1 wins is capped off by Charles Leclerc’s infamous failure that denied him victory in the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix.

In only his second race for Ferrari, the Monegasque driver commanded the race over teammate Sebastian Vettel before a spark plug failure saw him lose power for the last 15 laps.

Both Mercedes drivers passed Leclerc, who held on to finish in third place and secure a first career podium finish, but it was bittersweet after what had been a superb weekend.

Victories later in the season in the Belgian Grand Prix and in the Italian Grand Prix in front of the adoring Tifosi probably made up for that disappointment, but it was far from the way Leclerc wanted it to go.

So with the heart-wrenching way in which Norris lost a potential first career victory, it is curious that when the opportunity presented itself for the first time to these four future superstars, for whatever reason, the moment passed them by.

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Leclerc is already a double race winner, and Norris and Russell are also poised for Formula 1 stardom, but the contrast with Max Verstappen when he won the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix is obvious and could be interesting as these top-class drivers battle it out for victories and championships in the years to come.