Lando Norris has admitted McLaren are facing a “tough” choice between qualifying performance and race pace as they target Red Bull and Max Verstappen at the Dutch Grand Prix.
Following a slow start to the season, McLaren have emerged as serious contenders in recent weeks with Norris finishing second to Verstappen in Britain and Hungary.
The team’s upturn in performance seems to have continued at Zandvoort, where Norris edged out Verstappen by 0.023s to top the timesheets in FP2.
McLaren facing a big dilemma at Zandvoort, admits Lando Norris
Verstappen went on to shower praise on McLaren, claiming the orange cars “look quick on any tyre” and that Norris and team-mate Oscar Piastri could even challenge him for pole position.
Despite being pleased with his Friday showing, Norris is expecting Red Bull to step up a gear on Saturday at Zandvoort.
And on a small, compact circuit where track position could prove key, he feels McLaren are facing a tricky choice between one-lap and long-run pace.
He told Sky F1: “I think they’re still a bit ahead. Normally we’re always a little closer [on Fridays] than we turn out to be.
“But I’m so happy, I’m positive, good day. Normally the Red Bulls just step it up another level when it comes to Saturday.
“So we’ll see, but I’m feeling good – especially on the low fuel, I’m happy; with the high fuel not so much.
“It’s a tough decision [on setup]. It’s one we have to talk about and decide it because it’s not the easiest track to overtake on.
“And even if we qualify ahead of a Red Bull, our race is not with them on Sunday. They’re way too fast for us. Even if I had the best tyre degradation I’ve ever had, they’d still overtake us.
“So our race might probably not be with them, but it’s a difficult track to overtake on so we’ll decide tonight.”
Friday practice was littered with a number of blocking and impeding incidents as drivers struggled to find space to start a lap and encountered traffic at the end of others.
Norris is braced for a challenging qualifying session on Saturday and explained why traffic issues are magnified at Zandvoort.
He said: “It’s already pretty chaotic, so I’m not expecting an easy one or a straightforward one. A lot of people blocking and causing chaos today, so it’s part of the challenge.
“It’s always the same here, every year. It’s similar with other tracks but always worse here because it’s such a short lap and high-speed corners at the end of the lap is a tricky one, so it’s for us to manage and sort out.”