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A repeat of Miami's performance may not be enough to beat Verstappen

Lando Norris reckons it will be difficult to beat Max Verstappen to victory at Imola, even if his McLaren is as competitive as it was at the last race.

The McLaren driver will share the front row in today's race after his teammate Oscar Piastri was penalized.

Norris achieved the first Grand Prix victory of his career two weeks ago in Miami, thanks in part to the timing of a safety car phase. But despite the pace McLaren showed there and in practice at Imola, he said the characteristics of this track will make Verstappen difficult to beat.

“It's almost impossible to overtake here, especially when the gaps are so small,” said Norris. “You always try to take advantage of other people's mistakes and difficulties – as bad as it sounds, you try to take advantage of these times. Max didn't have the smoothest weekend, but I think if anyone doubts that Red Bull or him will come back and do a good job in qualifying, they're a bit stupid.

“We expected them to be back on track. It's annoying to miss it again in qualifying, but we're close and I think as a team we're happy with the performance we all did.

“If we can keep going and have a strong race pace like we had [on Friday] And like in Miami, I think we can all look forward to a good race.”

He believes there is little difference between McLaren's speed and that of other leading teams.

“We were very good [on Friday], but also in Imola, if you see others, we didn't do the fastest laps on these long runs. We were probably the most consistent, but a lot of others had traffic and things like that. So it’s close.”

Norris emphasized that it was “a little colder” on Friday, “so maybe it would be nice if we remembered that again.”

“All weekend the car performed well and the team did a good job,” he said. “But I don’t expect us to just have an easy day. I think overtaking here is next to impossible. So that's our first task.

“But at the same time, if we can put pressure on them and stay on their toes throughout the race and put in a performance like Miami, then I think we can be optimistic, of course. But just the overtaking and the strategy are probably a little more difficult than in Miami.”

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