Daniel Ricciardo hopes to pass and contain Ferrari in sprint qualifying after closing up more than expected in Sao Paulo.
Ricciardo’s McLaren team and Ferrari are scrapping it out over P3 in the Constructors’ Championship, a battle which has begun to swing in Ferrari’s favour both in terms of points and on-track form.
Ferrari hold a 13.5-point advantage over their rivals, while last time out in Mexico it was also the Scuderia with a superior race car over McLaren.
Qualifying in Sao Paulo did conclude with both Ferraris ahead of McLaren, but with less than two tenths separating Carlos Sainz in P6 and Ricciardo in P9, the latter is confident that McLaren can turn the pecking order around come the Sao Paulo GP race day.
"We're in a good position to fight."
Let's keep it that way, team! #BrazilGP 🇧🇷
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) November 12, 2021
Asked by Sky F1 if McLaren could hold Ferrari off should they get ahead in the sprint, Ricciardo replied: “I think so, it’s a fairly long race around here, obviously the lap is short but 24 laps is quite a bit I think with the tyre deg, it’s pretty high here.
“This morning Ferrari looked like they were going to be quite a long way up the road and I think we were a tenth off them.
“I think we are okay, it’s obviously towards the back end of the top 10, but coming into qualy we honestly felt like Q3 was going to be a stretch, so to get both cars in is okay.”
From P8 Lando Norris will start alongside Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, and like his McLaren team-mate believes Ferrari can be beat in the sprint if track position is gained.
“It’s our aim,” said Norris of the challenge to out-qualify Ferrari.
“A car that’s normally a little bit quicker in qualy or by the amount they were, which is I think probably just under a tenth almost, I think you have a decent chance to hold them off.
“If they were maybe two or three tenths ahead like in Mexico, then that’s when you see the gap get much bigger in the race.
“So I think we are in a good position, tricky first couple of corners and a first lap here, so as you saw last year anything can happen with the incidents and Safety Cars.
“Optimistic and that is our aim to get ahead of them.”
While P8 may not seem like an ideal starting place for Norris, the Briton was more than happy to take it after failing to come close to the top 10 in practice.
Asked if he wanted better than P8, Norris said: “I can say that, but I think that would be slightly optimistic as well from where we were in FP1, I was 15th.
“So it wasn’t looking too good, we were quite a long way off again, we were confident we could make improvements, but I think we were as confident we could make it into Q3 as we did.
“We honestly made some good improvements from FP1, I just couldn’t push on the car this morning, so it made it in a way which was easier to be able to push on it and push the braking and so on, and I think we took a very good step.
“Of course I’m not ahead of the Ferraris and that’s where we need to and want to be, but to be right behind them is the best we could do, so I’m pretty happy with that.”