Lando Norris believes that topping the times on the opening day of pre-season testing is almost worse than being bottom, as it will increase expectations to a level that McLaren might struggle to meet.
Ferrari had led the way for the majority of day one at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but Norris went clear of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz with two late runs on soft C4 tires, being the only driver to go under 1m20s. His lap of 1m19.568s left him 0.6s clear of Leclerc, but Norris said the end result could actually prove to be a bit of a burden for McLaren.
“I can be happy enough, but today is not about lap time,” Norris said. “I don’t care if I’m first or last. If anything it’s worse if you’re first as everyone thinks we’re amazingly fast, which I don’t really reckon we are. But no, I think a good day in terms of the laps and the program.
“It’s way too early to tell anything, Of course now we’re P1 and everyone is going to think we’re going to win the race, but no chance. No, it feels good, I think we made some good improvements already from the beginning of the day, but we’re only in day one of the season. Even if we’re amazing now, everything can change by the time we get to the first race, and everything can change by the second.
“The rate of development that everyone’s going to bring to the first half of the season is going to be extremely high. I just hope it’s fast, it feels good. There are definitely many things to work on, some things not feeling so good, but for a new car and something we never drove before – for so many new things – I think it was a decent start.”
Despite the scale of the changes to the regulations in 2022, Norris said the cars feel relatively familiar from a driving perspective.
“There’s obviously a lot of talk about how different the car is it, but when I got in it, I was like ‘ah it’s not actually too different to last year’,” he said. “So I think there’s a lot of hype, a lot of talk, and everyone’s expecting so many differences.
“There are differences here and there, and some of them are quite big, some smaller, but at the end of the day it’s still a Formula 1 car and it’s meant to go almost as quick as last year. So there’s not going to be too many differences, but I got used to it and felt comfortable and will get used to it over the next few days.”