Lando Norris believes a number of McLaren’s rivals made bigger development steps in Germany that could lead to a tough Hungarian Grand Prix for his team.
Carlos Sainz qualified seventh and finished fifth in a chaotic race at Hockenheim, but Norris dropped out in Q1 for the first time this season before retiring from the race with a power unit issue. The midfield battle was particularly tight as Alfa Romeo, Haas, McLaren, Racing Point and Renault all got drivers into the top 10 in qualifying, and Norris says a number of other cars appeared quicker.
“(Germany) was already pretty tough, as good as it looked at times and with P5 as a result, our pace wasn’t that strong, so we’ve got a lot of work to do I think,” Norris said. “A lot of others brought upgrades and made some decent steps ahead of us.
“It’s going to be tough, no matter what — even if we’re quick or slow, it’s still going to be tough. But at the moment we don’t look like we have as strong as a car as we’ve had in the last few races. So yeah, we’ve been trying to improve.”
McLaren actually extended its advantage in the constructors’ championship as Renault failed to score and Toro Rosso jumped ahead of the French manufacturer courtesy of Daniil Kvyat’s podium, but Norris says that shouldn’t detract from the MCL34’s pace.
“That was a driver fault, the (Nico) Hulkenberg one — it was freaking tricky, so I’m not going to blame him. It’s good to maximize the points that we can get — which is what Carlos did and his guys — but if we’re just there for pure pace, we wouldn’t have had as good a result as they’d had.
“So we were lucky the conditions were like that, I think — if they are more plain and normal and boring, it’s going to be a much tougher weekend.”
While Norris failed to finish on Sunday due to a reliability issue, he also says he almost didn’t start the race after testing out conditions on his way to the grid.
“The only thing that was stupid that led to a lot of crashes was the drag strip. Luckily, I did it on my laps to the grid, because we had an onboard that we had to watch, the one magic lap from Fernando (Alonso) when he was with Ferrari, and he goes two wheels over the curb, onto the drag strip, and everything looks fine.
“So I did my lap to the grid, I tried it, and I genuinely thought I was going to be out of the race before I even started. I put the clutch in, full opposite lock, I’m not exaggerating! I was like, ‘Oh s••t, this is not going to be good!’ Because the guys were waiting there to put me up on the jacks and put me in my positions, and I had the biggest fright of my life.”