Lando Norris wants to beat Max Verstappen in the French Grand Prix after McLaren locked out the third row with a strong qualifying performance.
McLaren was quick throughout the three practice sessions and carried its form into qualifying, with Norris and Carlos Sainz looking like a threat to Verstappen in Q3. Norris ended up just 0.009s off the fourth-placed Dutchman but says the target in the race will be to race with the Red Bull.
“It’s a good achievement for myself, just in Formula 1, to get fifth,” said Norris (pictured above being congratulated after qualifying by team boss Zak Brown). “There’s a few other things I’ve done, winning championships, but it’s a big high, a thing I’ll remember — but it depends how much we go on to achieve.
“The aim is to win! Whether that’s going to happen I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think our pace is obviously pretty good. I think the Ferraris are quicker, Mercedes are quicker, Red Bulls are looking like we could fight them.
“You never know (if the podium is in reach) — other people crashing, which we’ll hope for. But even getting good points… If we can race the Red Bulls and be around them, fifth onwards, I think we can be happy.
“I’m happy to beat one of them, on pure pace. We beat a Ferrari but I don’t think that was pure pace. To miss out on Verstappen by 0.009s was a bit annoying as there was the potential to go 0.009s quicker. A bit annoying but still happy to be here.”
With Sainz lining up alongside Norris in sixth place, the Spaniard says a more likely target is ensuring McLaren outscores Renault as two points currently separate the teams in the constructors’ standings.
“Happy to beat one Red Bull, and I think we trailed the other one by 0.009s which is good news,” Sainz said. “I think Renault has done a good step on the engine, and I think on this kind of tracks that step on the engine is helping a lot and we are enjoying when it comes to qualifying.
“Are we going to beat Red Bull tomorrow? That’s the main question. I struggle to think that, but we’re going to give it our best chance.
“Renault? I don’t know how far off they finished. In Canada they put a really perfect lap together and were 0.3s ahead. Today we probably got the balance right and were 0.3-0.4s ahead. It shows getting everything spot on with the tires, balance and the track just gives you that advantage and we probably got it right this weekend.”