‘We know exactly where we lose it’ – Lando Norris highlights McLaren’s pace deficit to Red Bull

Oliver Harden
A close-up shot of Lando Norris facing questions in teh post-qualifying press conference in Japan

McLaren driver Lando Norris

Lando Norris has identified slow-speed corners as McLaren’s weakness to Red Bull, claiming the team lost all their time there “as usual” in Japanese Grand Prix qualifying.

Norris emerged as the closest threat to the dominant Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in qualifying at Suzuka, claiming third on the grid for Sunday’s race.

Lando Norris on where McLaren are lacking against Red Bull

The McLaren driver’s quickest lap in Q3 was almost three tenths slower than Verstappen’s time for pole position and almost two-and-a-half tenths adrift of Perez.

Speaking to Sky F1 after the session, Norris was satisfied that McLaren came out on top of a tight fight with Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin at Suzuka, but expressed his frustration that third place is “as good as it’s going to get” with Red Bull so strong.

And he revealed all his time lost to Verstappen and Perez came at the slowest corners of the lap, with McLaren still lacking in the low-speed sections.

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Asked if McLaren are fighting to be best of the rest behind Red Bull, he said: “Yes.

“Ferrari obviously dropped off a little bit today, but that could just be today and maybe they’ll be back on form tomorrow.

“But I think it was close between all of us: Aston, Mercedes, Ferrari, us – that’s eight cars and we didn’t know if we were going to be ahead of it or at the back of it or in the middle.

“Today was as good as it was going to get and it is as good as it’s going to get.

“Two-and-a-half tenths is quite a big chunk, but we know exactly where we lose it. We lose it in two corners pretty much, the slow speed as always, as usual.

“But there’s a lot of our strengths [at Suzuka], which is the high speed. We’re purple in Sector 1, which is always a good thing.

“So good confidence in the car, but it’s just that the slow speed is still a bit tricky. And there’s one DRS zone here as well, which is a good thing for us.

“So I think today shows, when you eliminate some of our weaknesses, where we stack up and where we deserve to be, but it’s just a ‘good as it gets’ feeling.

“We know we still have many things to improve but to only be two-and-a-bit tenths off is still a good job, especially when last year we were around half a second off pole.

“So we’re taking steps forward, but we’ve still got more to do.”

Meanwhile, after qualifying sixth, around two tenths slower than his team-mate, Oscar Piastri revealed his own time loss came in the second sector, which includes the iconic Degner and Spoon corners.

Asked where he was lacking pace, Piastri told Sky F1: “I think mainly in the second sector. I think sector 1 was quite strong, it just got away from me a bit in sector 2 really.

“So not my best of days, but we’ve got tomorrow, so let’s see what we can do.”

Asked how he plans to join Norris towards the front of the pack, Piastri added: “He is always an interesting one with strategy and looking after the tyres is difficult around here.

“I think our race pace has been strong in the first part of the year, Ferrari has been strong in the first part of the year, so we’ll see what we can do.

“I’m not expecting it to be easy to make progress, but I think it’s definitely possible.”

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