Lando Norris says his third place on the grid at the Styrian Grand Prix is a sign of how competitive McLaren can be when it gets its car working properly.
McLaren has been strong at the Red Bull Ring in the past — with Norris getting his first podium here last year and Carlos Sainz qualifying third for one of the two races — as well as during some qualifying sessions this year such as Imola. But the team has also had some occasions where it has struggled relative to the likes of Ferrari, AlphaTauri and Alpine on a Saturday and Norris says his performance in Austria — where he was fourth fastest but will start third — demonstrates the potential when the package clicks.
“I wasn’t really expecting it to be as close as we were,” Norris said. “I was just expecting Red Bull and Mercedes to have a bit more of a gap but the car was good and even my very first lap that I did in Q1 was very strong. A little bit surprised it was that good and we didn’t have to do the second run and things like that.
“We made some good improvements from P2 to P3 — I struggled quite a bit in P2 yesterday — and then we made further improvements from P3 to quali and the car got a lot better, so it’s good. It was rewarding, especially because quali has been… not our weakness but it’s not been our strongest area lately. It’s nice to make our lives a little bit easier tomorrow.
“Maybe it’s just us, me and my car. The car must suit this track a bit more than others for sure. But I feel like I was driving well at the same time. I felt like I did some good laps. The car’s still not super easy to drive — it’s hard to get it right on the limit but when we do, which I probably did quite a bit today, we can be where we are.
“I don’t know what the secret is but the car was very nice to drive with confidence and when I’m driving well you put these two together and we can be very strong.”
Teammate Daniel Ricciardo dropped out in Q2 in 13th place, saying the car was difficult to drive. Norris says the Australian is right, but that he feels he simply performed better on Saturday.
“I mean, I agree, the car is not easy to drive and we proved that many times this year. It’s difficult to put things together. But I felt like I was driving very well today as well. I struggled yesterday and I was behind him I think in both sessions, so it’s not like I’ve been way quicker all weekend.
“It’s just I made some good improvements with my driving and did a better job today and put it all together when I when I needed to. Obviously we still have slightly different driving styles and whatever and he struggled a bit more today.”