Lando Norris joked that he perhaps came out of the blocks too hot in Mexico, as he places Red Bull likely out of reach.
Max Verstappen put his Red Bull top of the pile in both Friday practice sessions in Mexico, though by the end of FP2, Norris was threatening a strong showing for McLaren.
The Brit would end that session only a tenth down on Verstappen, sparking hope that after Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes’ challenge last weekend in Austin, McLaren could this time bring the fight to Red Bull.
Lando Norris uncertain on McLaren gains from here
But, with drivers traditionally building up their pace through the practice sessions, Norris joked that he perhaps showed his hand too soon.
“I think it was a good Friday,” he told Sky F1.
“A good start to the weekend anyway, it’s close, things that can swing very quickly either way. I did a very good lap, maybe too good for this early in the weekend. So yeah, we’ll continue to try and improve.”
However, Norris doubts there is a further chunk of performance to be found, as he declared fighting Red Bull a “tough” scenario to foresee.
Asked how much more McLaren can do to close in on Verstappen further, Norris replied: “Not a lot.
“I think we started the weekend off well, I think we generally always start weekends off quite well. I think we always have a good idea of where to put the car to begin with and it’s not far off normally where we end the weekends.
“There’s not a lot to gain through the weekend. There’s always little things and those little things add up. There’s still stuff to improve also from my driving, little things here and there, but to challenge Red Bull I think is going to be tough.”
Team principal Andrea Stella was thankful for a smooth two hours of practice on Friday, but while the pace looks encouraging, he too is not getting carried away yet, believing that McLaren were not alone in threatening a strong weekend.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas were both within three-tenths of Verstappen’s benchmark.
“It’s been a productive first day in Mexico City,” he said. “We had no issues across either session, which meant we could work on set-up, tyres and cooling.
“Overall, our performance looks encouraging, however it seems many teams have the potential to be competitive here. We will do our best, adapt to the conditions and hopefully secure good starting positions tomorrow for Sunday’s Grand Prix.”
McLaren stripped Aston Martin of P4 in the Constructors’ Championship last time out in Austin, though catching Ferrari in P3 is now becoming a very tall order, the gap standing at 80 points.