Lando Norris identifies McLaren’s Japanese GP challengers as car feels ‘all over the place’

Thomas Maher
McLaren's Lando Norris in action at the Japanese Grand Prix.

McLaren's Lando Norris in action at the Japanese Grand Prix.

McLaren’s Lando Norris doubts his team are in contention for pole position at Suzuka, but believes his team will be close to the sharp end.

With Max Verstappen romping his way to top spot in practice at Suzuka on Friday as normal service resumed following their Singapore blip, Lando Norris doubts McLaren will be able to contend directly with the pace of the RB19.

While Norris finished less than a second off the race win in Singapore as Carlos Sainz ‘waited up’ for him in order to use the McLaren as a buffer in defence, the British driver doubts the MCL60 has the outright speed to fight for pole position despite their recent purple patch of form.

Lando Norris: I doubt McLaren can take pole position

Norris finished Friday’s running just under half a second off the pace shown by Red Bull and Max Verstappen, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc the interloper and a tenth clear of Norris.

Despite the reasonably strong single-lap pace on display, Norris said pole position is likely out of reach.


“I doubt it’s going to be pole, the Red Bull is just doing normal Red Bull at the minute,” he said. “But I think we are not far away.

“I would say we normally get a bit closer come lower fuel, turn the engines up, things like that. I think challenging for pole is probably quite a big task, and probably quite too far.

“But to try and challenge Mercedes, who maybe didn’t look quite so good today, challenge the Ferraris, and Astons, who looked pretty good. I think it’s going to be our battle for tomorrow.”

While Norris was up near the top of the timesheets, the British driver said he had found his MCL60 to be downright tricky out on track and complained it had been very difficult to tame.

“The pace was there. The pace has been pretty good today,” he said.

“Probably one of the closest times we’ve been to Red Bull and the front lot on a Friday. So, I think encouraging from a pace point of view, but the car feels pretty all over the place.

“I kind of think it does for the majority. It’s just a very low grip, I don’t think it’s just us in particular, it’s just a handful.

“If we can just calm it down a little bit, bring the balance together, I think we can have a good day, the pace is good, but the car is just difficult to drive.” recommends

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Lando Norris: McLaren pace still fluctuates quite a bit

Coming into the weekend, Norris had spoken about how he feels the upgrades introduced in Singapore will work at the far more aerodynamically demanding Suzuka circuit.

“It’s tough to say. I don’t know,” he said.

“I think everything did it was what it was meant to do. And I think we definitely took some steps forward.

“I don’t think we’re confident in saying we’re as quick as Red Bull. I think Red Bull will probably be dominant this weekend.

“But I think comparing us to Ferrari and Mercedes then Mercedes have been just a lot more consistent than what we have. We still fluctuate quite a bit.

“On a good weekend, we can be very, very good and maybe a little bit ahead, like we’ve seen in Silverstone and things like that.

“But on the whole, Mercedes has probably been the second best car this season, then Ferrari and then us so far. We’re getting there. It’s still a very different circuit to Singapore with these upgrades. So there are all things for us to find out and analyse from Suzuka.”

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