Lando Norris revealed McLaren was worried he might not make it out of the first part of qualifying before his top-10 performance at the Australian Grand Prix.
Carlos Sainz had been the lead McLaren throughout practice in Melbourne, with Norris finishing 18th overall in all three sessions ahead of only the struggling Williams drivers. As a result, Norris says McLaren focused on trying to get him out of Q1, with the rookie going on to deliver the surprise of the session as he qualified eighth on his debut.
“I think you can tell by doing three runs in Q1 shows we were a bit unsure whether I could definitely make it to Q2,” Norris said. “So we put a lot of effort into trying to achieve that and obviously that all went to plan.
“Then I only had one set of new tires for Q2 so I was not in as strong a position as some of the other drivers, but then I still managed to get into Q3. So definitely not what we were expecting — I think everyone, the team, myself and all of you guys (media). Definitely going into it was not what we were expecting, honestly.”
Sainz had his final lap in Q1 compromised by Robert Kubica’s Williams as the Pole limped back to the pits with a puncture, and felt the car was competitive enough for both drivers to advance. However, Norris says McLaren needs to be wary of heightened expectations this season due to the strong start.
“To be honest, I didn’t think that this track would quite suit us as much initially. I think we maximized pretty much what we could do today, or at least I felt like I maximized what I could achieve. It’s too difficult to know (if it can be repeated).
“I felt reasonably confident by the end of it, but while I’ve been to Bahrain I’ve never been to Shanghai, so I think it’s going to vary quite a bit from track to track. I can’t say no but at the same time I can’t say definitely yes.
“As you saw, the midfield is very tight — Q1, I think between a few of the guys who were in was only 0.2s or something. So even one small mistake could make a big difference, but I managed to do a lap that put me on the front side of that group.”