Lando Norris fears Ferrari remain “way too fast” for McLaren at the Singapore Grand Prix despite being pleased with the team’s latest upgrade package.
Having made considerable strides in performance in recent months, McLaren arrived in Singapore armed with what has been described as their biggest upgrade package since the Austrian Grand Prix – the scene of their mid-season breakthrough – in early July.
The new package – headlined by improvements to the floor, sidepod inlet shape, engine cover, rear suspension and front and rear wing endplates – will be raced only on Norris’s car this weekend, with team-mate Oscar Piastri set to receive the revised car at Suzuka next weekend.
Lando Norris identifies Ferrari as Singapore GP favourites
Having been classified fourth in opening practice at Marina Bay, Norris slid to sixth in FP2 as Ferrari finished one-two in both sessions on Friday.
Norris led the way for much of FP1, but feels his ability to adapt quickly in challenging conditions flattered him for most of the first session. Despite playing down his early pace, he was satisfied to have validated McLaren’s updates on Friday.
Asked to sum up his day’s work, he told Formula 1: “Good, tricky.
“I think it was a positive day. I think we weren’t expecting to suddenly be P1 or anything, so P1 maybe looked more positive initially but I think we’re always good at getting up to speed. I feel like it’s a good strength of mine, getting up to speed quickly on a tricky track.
“So, good day. I think we’ve definitely taken some steps forward, the new bits are looking like they’re doing what they’re meant to do, which is always a good thing.
“A couple of little mistakes, maybe, which cost me a little bit of lap time, but plenty of things for us to improve on for tomorrow.”
With Red Bull appearing to struggle on Friday as Max Verstappen – winner of the last 10 races – was classified no higher than third in either session, there is a growing possibility that the reigning Constructors’ Champions dominance of the 2023 season could be breached this weekend.
As things stand, however, Norris regards Ferrari as the clear favourites with McLaren in a battle with Mercedes, Aston Martin and Red Bull to be best of the rest.
Asked if he can fight for good positions, Norris said: “Good positions.
“I think we’re way too far from Ferrari. Ferrari are way too fast for us at the minute. They’re strong – extremely good – in the slow speed [and] pretty much all you have here is slow speed.
“I think coming in [to the weekend] we knew we were maybe second, third, fourth quickest in that bunch. I was more expecting Ferrari to probably be quickest by quite a margin, which they are, so it kind of makes sense.
“We’re not far behind. I think, if we put in a mega lap, we can get close, but we’re in the fight with the Mercedes, Astons and Red Bulls, so it’s looking like it’s going to be an exciting qualifying tomorrow.”
Red Bull’s difficulties were the main story from Friday in Singapore, with Verstappen admitting “it was worse than expected today” after FP2.
Red Bull have won all but one race since July 2022, with their last defeat occurring at last season’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix where George Russell triumphed for Mercedes.
Ferrari’s last victory came courtesy of Charles Leclerc in Austria last season, with McLaren without a win for more than two years since Daniel Ricciardo ended the team’s winless run at Monza.