Lando Norris admits McLaren ‘lacking’ as team seeks critical ‘trade-off’

Thomas Maher
Lando Norris, McLaren, 2024 Monaco Grand Prix.

McLaren driver Lando Norris.

Lando Norris says McLaren’s Friday at Monaco “wasn’t bad”, but believes there’s one team to beat this weekend in Monte Carlo.

McLaren is coming off the back of two very strong weekends in which the MCL38 was perhaps the quickest car of all following the upgrades introduced in Miami, but Lando Norris believes his car is lacking a little bit compared to Ferrari.

Lando Norris: A reasonable first day

The team is sporting a new livery on the MCL38 for the Monaco weekend, paying tribute to the late Ayrton Senna – the Brazilian having won the famous race five times in McLaren colours.

But the new livery couldn’t get McLaren in the battle at the very front of the pack on Friday, with Norris finishing the day as the quicker of himself and Oscar Piastri – but his best was only good enough for fifth place and almost seven-tenths of a second off Charles Leclerc’s pace-setting time.

The British driver, who scored his maiden F1 win in Miami three weeks ago, reflected on his Friday at the end of the track action and pinpointed concerns over the pace shown by Ferrari.

“We look good out there, but not in the sense of speed,” Norris said.

“I think we’re not bad at all. It’s always tricky around here. So first of all, it’s just nice to be back and driving around this track because it’s as chaotic as it always is and as typical as it always is. But, it’s a reasonable first day. Definitely lacking a little bit compared to Charles and the Ferrari.

“Maybe the Mercedes, they’ve been very quick as well. I think everyone’s tighter just because it’s a small track and an abnormal track. But we’re up there, we have a little bit to find. I think it’s going to be a difficult day tomorrow, but we’re in the fight, so that’s the main thing.”

Norris’ sentiment echoes that of the Red Bull drivers, with both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez claiming the red cars are “miles ahead”, but Norris was more optimistic than the Milton Keynes men over the possibility of getting back on par.

“A few different things – the main thing you want around here is low-speed grip,” he answered, when asked what he can address on his car overnight before third practice.

“So trying to change the balance and get a nice balance to help that, and also just ride – the better the car can go over the bumps and almost the softer it can feel, the better, but there’s a trade-off – if you try and do that too much, you lose overall performance and vice versa.

“So it’s complicated and we tried a few things today, so hopefully we can understand it tonight and improve it for tomorrow.”

More on the latest Monaco Grand Prix F1 news

👉 Charles Leclerc reacts to fast start in quest to ‘finally get that win’ in Monaco GP

👉 Max Verstappen: Red Bull stuck in setup trouble as Ferrari pace admission made

Oscar Piastri: McLaren could be first or 10th!

The Australian, who finished third at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to complete a double McLaren podium, was just under 1.1 seconds off Leclerc’s pace, but said he was feeling confident about a good weekend – even if the rival teams are all looking strong.

“Ferrari looks quick. Red Bull looks good, and Mercedes has looked a lot stronger this weekend, so far,” he said.

“So it’s very tight at the front. But I think it’s been a good day overall.”

Pressed to guess where he might end up when crunch time arrives in qualifying, Piastri laughed.

“Honestly, we could be first, we could be eighth!” he said.

“I mean, even Aston Martin looks pretty decent, [Fernando] Alonso looked good. So it could be first, it could be 10th – you never know.

“It’s been very, very tight between everybody today. So everyone will try and tune up the cars tomorrow and give it a good run.

“It’s going to be exciting because I think it’s very much in the driver’s hands. It looks like there are a lot of quick cars out there so whoever nails the lap is probably going to end up on top.”

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