Lando Norris claimed another second place at the US Grand Prix on Sunday but fears his resurgent McLaren team may now miss their best chance of victory this season.
The 23-year-old Briton has been runner-up five times this year and remains winless six times in his Formula One career.
Sunday’s latest second came when stewards disqualified Mercedes’ seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton from that position long after celebrating the podium at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.
If it was an unexpected bonus, McLaren also finished fourth overall ahead of Aston Martin, with Norris still beating himself up for the one he left two weeks ago in Qatar, where he finished third after starting 10th.
Australian rookie teammate Oscar Piastri won the sprint at Lucille and was second in the main race.
“I think Qatar was our best chance to win the race. And I missed that chance,” Norris told reporters. “I think there is no … Qatar-style circuit left where we are strong.
“If you look at the GPS and overlay how bad we are at slow speed I’m not looking at Brazil. I think we’re going to be pretty spectacular there.”
Norris took the lead from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at the first corner in Austin, was later disqualified and led until halfway when Red Bull’s eventual winner Max Verstappen overtook him.
Verstappen celebrated his 50th win and record-equalling 15th in 18 races this season.
Dutch driver Norris pointed out that the Briton had a good record in Abu Dhabi, which hosts next month’s season-ender after rounds in Mexico, Brazil and Las Vegas.
“Maybe Abu Dhabi, you never know. We’ll see. I don’t think they have any good coming for us,” said Norris, who is close to edging out now-retired German Nick Heidfeld for the record. A podium appearance without a win.
Britain is now number 12, Heidfeld took 13 before retiring in 2011. Eight of the Germans’ podiums were in second place.
“I think our best is gone. I just want to be optimistic that we can get a good result and I think we can still fight for the podium but these guys [Red Bull and Mercedes] Too fast for me,” Norris continued.
“We might look decent, but I think realistically we’re not at that level as a general package with these guys. So yeah, the greats aren’t coming but Vegas, Abu Dhabi is probably better.”