Lando Norris is expecting a “very close” qualifying session at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after a “messy” Friday practice at the Yas Marina circuit.
Norris was one of several drivers to sit out FP1 in Abu Dhabi, with McLaren reserve Pato O’Ward in his place as the team fulfilled their obligatory rookie practice running for the F2 2023 season.
The British driver was classified second upon his return to the cockpit in FP2, a session severely interrupted by crashes for Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg.
Lando Norris expecting close battle in Abu Dhabi
Despite being limited to just five flying laps and no long running over the course of the hour-long session, Norris believes McLaren are on course to end the season on a high after he and team-mate Oscar Piastri fell in Q1 in Las Vegas last weekend – and is forecasting a tight battle at the front.
He told Formula 1: “It was decent. Messy, of course, not many laps today. I think I managed five push laps in total so not the Friday I would want, especially from an FP2 perspective and trying to make up laps on everyone. I just felt like I lost even more.
“I go comfortable and confident very quickly, which is always important on a day when you miss FP1. I got confident quickly and could push on it, the car was performing pretty well. A few things to look into, but otherwise a decent day.
“For just one session today, I was happy. The car was obviously quite quick, definitely a bit [more] to find. I think it’s just very close, it’s going to be very close here tomorrow in qualifying. One or two tenths is easily five or six positions [on the grid] come tomorrow afternoon.
“It’s not that you feel first or last today – I don’t think that really matters – but it’s trying to find the little things tonight that can make a big difference tomorrow.
“We’re in a good position, definitely. We’re more comfortable and confident than we were in Vegas and a few other races, but not many high-fuel, long-run laps that I managed to get in today – actually zero – so a little bit behind from a long-run perspective but maybe I can make up for that tomorrow.”
Norris’s remarks come after Max Verstappen claimed Red Bull have lots of work to do ahead of qualifying, having ranked only third in second practice.
Verstappen, going in search of a 19th victory of 2023 this weekend, admitted he “didn’t expect to be so far off” having struggled with understeer and jumping in the dominant RB19 car on Friday.