McLaren explain why Lando Norris finished bottom of Bahrain GP FP2 timesheet

Jamie Woodhouse
Lando Norris in the McLaren MCL38 in the Bahrain pit lane.

McLaren's Lando Norris in the pit lane.

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella assured Lando Norris finishing bottom of the Bahrain Grand Prix FP2 timings was not representative, as he could not cleanly execute his one push on the soft tyre.

Norris may have played down McLaren’s chances in Bahrain, but the early signs at the F1 2024 season-opener were promising as he secured P2 in the opening practice session, though FP2 would be the more telling session as the floodlights took hold and all runners put the soft tyres to work.

And on the face of it, that second hour of practice was a worrying look for Norris, who finished all the way down in P20 and last. There is though more to this story.

Lando Norris not last on pure pace

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown told Sky F1 during FP2 that a “big” error in the last sector contributed to Norris failing to deliver a representative time on the soft C3 tyre, which team principal Stella has now confirmed occurred on Norris’ only timed lap with the compound.

“Overall, a productive first day of practice,” Stella stated.

“We had no major issues and we got through our test programme. Even though we’ve had three days of testing, there is always a lot to finalise when it comes to the race weekend, and today we worked on setup. It was also important to develop our understanding of the tyres in conditions that were colder in comparison to the test.

“Oscar [Piastri] had a good session both on new tyres and long runs, while Lando couldn’t complete his single timed lap on the soft, which meant his position in the classification was not very meaningful.

“But we’re happy with the information we’ve acquired, and we seem to be in a decent position to score points. We’ll try to maximise our package tomorrow and put ourselves in the best position for the rest of the weekend.”

Norris, while reaffirming that his push lap on the softs did not go to plan, offered some encouragement by confirming that he was grown more “comfortable” at the wheel of the MCL38 over the course of the opening day of F1 2024 track action.

“It’s been a reasonable day,” he reflected. “I’m happy with how Thursday went overall. We made some progress with the car, there are still plenty of things to improve on, but we improved the balance and I got more comfortable, which is a good thing.

“I didn’t do a great job in putting a lap together, so it wasn’t a very representative day on the timesheets, but overall, a good first day and a good start to the weekend.”

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For Norris’ team-mate Piastri, it was a productive day on the timesheets as he claimed P5, a position and 0.067s ahead of Red Bull’s F1 2024 title favourite and reigning three-time World Champion Max Verstappen.

With his rookie season now done and dusted, there is great intrigue surrounding Piastri heading into his second McLaren season, Piastri a driver many believe can reach the top of Formula 1, and who was left optimistic over McLaren’s single-lap and long-run pace after Thursday in Bahrain.

“It was a good session,” he said. “I felt like we were pretty competitive in both low and high-fuel running.

“It’ll be interesting to see what we’re like tomorrow, but I think it was a pretty solid day overall.

“I was happy with my driving, and we got some good information out of the session. It will be interesting to see what the grid is like when all the sandbags are gone, but I think we’re about where we expected to be and we’re in a good place going into tomorrow.”

Lewis Hamilton ended Bahrain Grand Prix FP2 on top, two-tenths ahead of Mercedes team-mate George Russell as the Silver Arrows scored an impressive one-two.

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