Norris delivers Australia pole forecast – and it is not Max Verstappen!

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Lando Norris has dismissed the prospect of Max Verstappen scoring a third consecutive pole position to start the new F1 season.

Norris topped the first 60 minutes of running at Albert Park by 0.018s from Verstappen, with George Russell and Charles Leclerc also within half-a-tenth of the Briton, before slipping to eighth quickest in the second session.

Leclerc then went on to finish quickest in FP2 by almost four-tenths of a second over Verstappen, who missed out on the first 20 minutes of running as his RB20 required a replacement floor due to damage sustained in the first session.

Despite Verstappen’s issues, Norris has no doubt the three-time F1 champion will not score a hat-trick of poles.

“Ferrari and Leclerc will be on pole, or Carlos [Sainz],” said Norris, whose MCL38 has so far been found wanting in the low-speed corners, which make up most of the second half of the lap from turns 13-16.

That is in contrast to the first two sectors, with the car’s package more suited to high-speed corners. Norris, however, feels the team’s pace was not a true reflection of the pecking order.

That has resulted in him downplaying his chances and the potential to challenge Ferrari or Red Bull come qualifying or the race.

Norris downbeat

“It didn’t really feel great in FP1, I think we just showed more pace than the others,” explained Norris after the second practice session. “So I don’t think it meant anything at all.

“It is clear that Ferrari and Red Bull are a long, long way up the road, even Aston Martin are quite a bit ahead of us.

“We’re in a good position, but it was a tricky day with how windy it was, it makes a big difference, but I had a relatively good feeling in the car, and I think we’re in a reasonable position.”

Norris has claimed there are “clear weaknesses” in the car that are further compromising performance.

He added: “There is no place that we’re consistently stronger than anyone, and we lose just a little bit in every sector, maybe a little bit more in the tight, twisty corners, like the last sector.

“But we’re just not as quick everywhere basically, it is not a single place, and it is clear since day one that Red Bull and Ferrari are way too fast for us, so there is no point looking at them.

“But Mercedes and Aston Martin are better targets.”

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