Carlos Sainz was left disappointed with his showing compared to McLaren’s midfield rivals in qualifying for the Emilia Romagna GP.
Half a second further back was Max Verstappen as the Red Bull man gets set to slot into his familiar P3 place on the grid once again.
After that though there was very little to choose between the top midfield runners and in the end it was Pierre Gasly who found the performance in Q3 to put his AlphaTauri P4 on the grid.
McLaren had no answer to that as the Woking outfit propped up the Q3 standings with Norris set to start from P9 alongside Sainz in P10.
And Sainz was clear that he and McLaren have lots of catching up to do if they want to work their way up the order.
“I think today, we all expected maybe a bit more,” he told reporters after the session.
“We were quick in free practice and we were comfortable with the car. But in Q1, I had to run two sets of tyres, the feeling went a bit away, and then we were just playing catch up, which meant for Q3, I only had one set of tyres left, and I had to put together a decent lap, that was nothing special.
“So we’re a bit far off from where we want to be. That AlphaTauri [of Gasly] was nearly four-tenths quicker. So the AlphaTauri, the Ferrari [of Charles Leclerc in P7], the Renault [of Daniel Ricciardo in P5] were just quicker than us today and we need to play catch-up tomorrow.”
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Norris added that both Gasly and AlphaTauri team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who will start from P8, are looking fast around Imola, whereas last weekend in Portimao it was just Gasly.
“I felt like we did a good job, but the other cars are just quicker, especially the AlphaTauris seem very quick this weekend,” he said.
“Some races they’re very, very good, and other races, not so good, and this track seems to be one that they‘re very good at and confident.
“Last weekend [at Portimao] it was just Pierre that was very strong, and now both cars seem to be very strong, so I guess that puts us two positions down from normal.
“We’re still ahead of two Racing Points, one of the Renaults, so it’s a good day, but [the AlphaTauris] still have that bit more pace that we were lacking today. But the car was nice to drive, I felt confident, we just weren’t quite quick enough.”
The battle for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship remains extremely tight heading in to the Emilia Romagna GP.
Racing Point currently hold the advantage with 126 points, but McLaren are only two adrift while Renault have 120 points.