Lando Norris insists McLaren is not a threat to Red Bull and Mercedes at the Bahrain Grand Prix despite finishing within 0.1s of the fastest time in Friday practice.
Much of the focus heading into the 2021 Formula 1 season has been on Red Bull and whether it has the fastest car following pre-season testing, and Max Verstappen duly set the quickest times in both FP1 and FP2. In the more representative second session, Norris was just 0.095s off Verstappen and ahead of both Mercedes drivers, but says he’s actually unhappy with his car and expects to drop back on Saturday.
“I mean, we look quick today but I think it is fairly obvious what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Norris said. “It’s going to be kind of the usual front four cars ahead of us; behind there it seems very close even if today we’re a little bit ahead. I think it’s because we just showed a bit more, and then we’ll go in tomorrow and we’ll be a little bit more where we should be kind of thing.
“I feel good in the car, in some areas, in some areas it doesn’t feel that good and we need to improve and if we can improve it tomorrow I’ll be happier, and that’s our job for tonight.
“Everyone’s going to think I’m just saying it … I don’t have the confidence that I want, especially on medium- and high-speed corners, Turn 6-7, I made a mistake on the first lap and had to abort as I completely lost the rear, my confidence in the car isn’t where I want it to be — isn’t where we had it last year — but there’s also improvements in other places compared to last year. So there’s areas to work on and that’s our job.”
Despite trying to downplay expectations, Norris did concede that there could be reasons to be optimistic because he feels McLaren can make some clear improvements.
“I’m a bit surprised by today but I think it is we showed more pace than the others, simple as that. You never know, we could be a surprise, but the car didn’t feel that good today. So, kind of I guess a bit promising that if we can improve those things into tomorrow, then we can be even better.
“Whether we can improve on them is the question, because they’re similar things to what we’ve been working on all season and we’ll see if we can come up with anything tomorrow. Quietly confident I guess but yeah, although we looked good today I don’t want to get too confident as I don’t think that’s where we’re going to be tomorrow.”