McLaren took a big step towards securing third in the Constructors’ Championship after what Lando Norris described as a “perfect” Saturday for the Woking outfit.
In what has been a tight and tense battle all season, it all comes down to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and it’s advantage McLaren after Norris delivered an outstanding lap in Q3 to snatch fourth with his team-mate two places behind in sixth.
Speaking to SkyF1 after the race, Norris said: “Fourth is a good achievement for us. I don’t think fourth is the achievement, two tenths off of pole is the achievement today.
“A bit of a surprise because we’ve not been within a second all weekend and, as you come into qualifying, the car has just hooked up and come alive more.
“So, a few things to try and understand on our behalf of why and how this has happened but for a Saturday and how we’re approaching this weekend it’s been the perfect start.”
Trailing Racing Point by 10 points, an uphill task was made a little easier when last week’s race-winner Sergio Perez was handed a grid penalty, demoting him to the rear of the field.
But the points are handed out on Sundays, and after Perez won from the back last week, Norris knows anything can happen when the lights go out for the final time in 2020.
He said: “One of the guys [Perez] at the back that we need to be at the back, [Lance] Stroll in P8, and the Renaults being a bit slower than we were anticipating.
“I don’t think we can rule anything out because Perez came from last and won last weekend and he’s often come from the back and had a podium or something so it’s not like we can relax or be happy with this.
“We can be confident and think about it after the weekend, but we’ve still got a big job to do tomorrow.”
Indeed, after looking odds-on to finish qualifying as best-of-the-rest after a strong showing in FP3, Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo line up 11th and 12th tomorrow, meaning just one of McLaren’s main rivals – Stroll in eighth – will start the race in the top ten.
But having a free choice of tyres can often prove decisive, something Norris is well aware of starting on the red-marked softs.
“We were nervous whether we could get into Q3 so that’s why Carlos took the risk [to run the mediums in Q2], but the car came alive and it wasn’t much of a risk at the end of the day,” he said.
“So, I’m going to have a bit of a harder job than what the people are that are on the mediums so not ideal, but I’m a few positions ahead so I’ll hang on.”
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