McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl is targeting qualifying as an area where his drivers can gain a vital edge on their Ferrari rivals.
Four races into the 2021 season, it looks increasingly as though McLaren and Ferrari will be the protagonists in a battle for third place in the Constructors’ World Championship.
For McLaren, that would mean cementing the position they achieved last year, while for Ferrari it would be a big step up on the sixth spot in which they ended a very disappointing 2020 campaign.
Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc have been leading the fight for McLaren and Ferrari respectively so far and both have produced some impressive qualifying performances.
But even though Norris threatened to gatecrash the front row at Imola or even grab pole, his team boss Seidl is keen for the Briton to hone his Saturday skills along with his new colleague, Daniel Ricciardo.
“If you look at the [Spanish Grand Prix] weekend, I think we simply have to accept Ferrari were strong in the race, but if you look at the whole season I think it’s clear we need to try to finish higher up on Saturdays,” said Seidl, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“Because in the end, it makes your life on Sunday so much easier if you do your stints in free air without pressure behind, which we managed in some races already this year because of having a good start or a good first lap.
“And it brought us back to the position where we wanted to be already on Saturday in qualifying.
“It’s clear, that’s the goal. We want to finish higher up on Saturdays. In the end, you want to finish on Saturday where the potential of the car is.”
The concern for Seidl was that both Ferraris started in front of both McLarens in Barcelona. Although Ricciardo finished ahead of Carlos Sainz in the race on what was the Australian’s strongest weekend so far with the team, the Scuderia generally fared better than their current most direct rival.
But Seidl was far from disgruntled with how things had played out in the race.
“If you start in Barcelona seventh and ninth, when you finish sixth and eighth and none of the cars starting in front of you have an issue, I think you need to be happy,” he added.
“It’s important that we still managed to score 12 points on a race weekend when Ferrari were quite strong. And we only lost six points in the Constructors’ Championship.
“It’s good to see it’s obviously a very tight battle, especially with Ferrari, and it’s simply important to make sure we keep bringing upgrades to the car in the next races in order to keep this battle for P3 alive.
“It’s good that we still have this P3 despite us struggling this weekend compared to them, but we expect a season-long battle with them.”