Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Ferrari quicker than McLaren in qualifying but not race trim – Norris

2021 F1 season

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Lando Norris says McLaren appear able to beat Ferrari in race trim but are not as quick as them in qualifying.

Following their poor 2020 campaign, Ferrari made a significant step forward at the first race of the new season, where they were the third-quickest team in qualifying. Charles Leclerc’s Q3 lap put him on the second row of the grid.

However in the race Norris led the ‘midfield’ group home, taking fourth behind the Mercedes pair and Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. Norris admitted Ferrari “were a little bit quicker” than McLaren in qualifying, but the Mercedes-powered team had the edge in race trim.

“More because I overtook Charles five, six, seven laps into the race rather than at the start,” he explained. “That was because we just had a better car and some better speed.

“So it’s a bit of both, 50-50 between us. But it’s not easy and I want it to be easy. So if we do better on Saturday, then I’ll be happy.”

McLaren’s slight disadvantage in qualifying trim continues a trait of the team’s recent cars, said Norris.

“Saturdays are difficult for us, I think, a little bit like last year. We’re maybe a little bit more comfortable on Sundays than Saturdays.

“But we’re at race one and it’s Bahrain, a track normally we do quite well at. So we need to be at some different tracks a little bit more often, we have to see after some more tracks where we really stand.

“Now I can get to the front and just maintain my tyres and everything. But if I had to race a little bit more, maybe it would have been a little bit more difficult and a different story.

“So I don’t want to say anything yet. I don’t want to say anything which isn’t true. But we had a good Sunday, the car was good, so I can be positive about that.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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21 comments on “Ferrari quicker than McLaren in qualifying but not race trim – Norris”

  1. It is a big shame how McLaren went from being the 3rd fastest in 2020, to being fifth fastest in 2021. Ferrari and AlphaTauri are quicker, while everyone said during testing that McLaren were really quick, close to Mercedes. And when AlphaTauri and Ferrari have copied McLaren’s diffuser, it’s bye bye. That’s Formula 1, I know. But I had hoped for more.

    1. Ferrari and Alpha Tauri didn’t change the engine like Mclaren and didn’t spent all the tokens just to integrate the mercedes engine..

      Reply moderated
    2. It’s been one race, we don’t really have any idea of the order yet aside from RB/Merc>Midfield>Alpine/Alfa/Williams/Haas

      Hard to draw that many real conclusions from one weekend.

      1. @Anon*,
        I’m not sure Alpine is in the last group.
        Some performance last weekend appeared to put them close or inside the midfield until they started to sand(wich)bag.
        But that initial speed could also be due to the superhuman drive of a mere common.

        *I assume you’re not the same contributor as @anon.

    3. @spafrancorchamps How did you arrive to such conclusion? Mclaren finished higher in the race than both Ferrari and AlphaTauri. And they were faster in race trim than both of those teams. Besides, Ricciardo had problems with the car, therefore did not finish higher. Besides, Mclaren started using new engines and used most of their tokens to make changes to integrate new engine instead of making new developments. It is likely that during the season Mclaren will further improve engine integration and therefore aerodynamics. Furthermore, it is quite hard to judge from one race because in different tracks performance may change. So you are jumping to conclusions way too early and it is likely Mclaren will remain the third fastest team in 2021.

      1. Yes I think this is a very odd comment to write-off McLaren after one race. When they easily finished in front of Ferrari and AT in the race.

    4. @spafrancorchamps Mclaren is the third-fastest on outright pace, followed by Ferrari and Alpha Tauri.

    5. You know, McLaren is currently 3rd in standings and can develop their car as well.

    6. @spafrancorchamps as others note, firstly, it feels a little hasty to write McLaren off so quickly based on a single weekend, especially on a track with very particular characteristics that aren’t necessarily representative of the wider calendar.

      Secondly, didn’t we see something of a similar situation in 2020 as well? There were several races in 2020 where Leclerc qualified surprisingly high up the grid, and Leclerc’s average qualifying performance was a match for that of Norris and Sainz – however, Leclerc couldn’t always maintain that performance in race trim, and would either be much closer, or sink back into, the midfield battle.

      What we saw in Bahrain was a similar pattern – Leclerc might have qualified strongly in 4th, but he couldn’t maintain that pace in the race and was ultimately passed by Norris. It looks like the car does have something of its traits from 2020, where it has reasonable pace over a single lap, but isn’t quite as strong over a race stint.

    7. Yes, I don’t agree at all with this comment, mclaren weren’t the 3rd fastest in 2020, they just ended 3rd in the constructors, force india were 3rd on pace last year. And to top it off I don’t know where you see mclaren 5th this year, I watched very closely cause I was interested in the performance values and seems to me like leclerc did the usual miracle in qualifying by beating mclarens, but from how norris passed him it seems obvious mclaren is faster than ferrari atm, in fact I was surprised he kept ricciardo behind, and alpha tauri is a bit of an unknown, they were quick in qualifying though.

    8. @spafrancorchamps Yeah you’re correct it’s not worthwhile watching F1 any more. I think it’s about time we started watching some other type of sport…you first :))

    9. To be fair, Racing Point was the 3rd fastest car last year. McLaren just lucked out to grab 3rd in the championship.

      This time I feel McLaren is the 3rd fastest car, but a bit too early to tell about Ferrari yet.

    10. It is a bit of a fallacy that McLaren were 3rd quickest last season @spafrancorchamps.

      They finished 3rd in the WCC largely because Norris and Sainz took every single opportunity they had to score big points whereas Racing Point and Renault did not (Racing Point also had those 15 points docked don’t forget). McLaren were 5th quickest on pure pace at best last season.

  2. I’m sick of this. I don’t understand the timing of this, how do people just say stuff like this after one race on an unrepresentative track in unrepresentative conditions. ‘SaturdayS are difficult for us’ is just a lie, because the season has seen only a single Saturday.

    I think the media coerces such soundbites from drivers. Don’t get me started on Mark Hughes and his conjecture-filled journalism, for instance. Journalists ask way too many questions in the constant rush to generate content, often sacrificing quality for quantity. The Race is a particularly strong example of this…so many articles about the most insignificant things, with oft-contradictory conclusions.

    1. Lando was talking about how Saturdays were their weak point last season, so he’s not just talking about one race.

      1. @exediron

        Saturdays are difficult for us, I think, a little bit like last year

        He’s comparing an object, ‘Saturdays’, to last year. Given he specified last year separately, I think it’s quite clear he’s talking about 2021. After one race weekend.

    2. I think a lot of it comes from what they learned in testing and how the training sessions apparently confirmed their own analyses @wsrgo. Remember how Norris was not at all happy despite doing quite well in those sessions, fully expecting McLaren to drop down the order come qualifying.

      So I actually think that they understand their own car, and the characteristics of others, a lot better than we can ever, because we do not have access to their data. And they seem to know app. how much Ferrari gains in qualifying vs. what they themselves get.

  3. It’s gonna be a fascinating three-way fight between McLaren, Ferrari & Alpha Tauri this season.
    I except McLaren and Alpha Tauri to have the edge over Ferrari on faster tracks/those which favor a potent PU and efficient aerodynamics (Spa, Monza, etc.), while Ferrari should be faster on chassis-dependent tracks (Portimao, Barcelona, etc.).

    There wasn’t a huge difference between McLaren & Ferrari in qualifying last weekend. Leclerc just managed to pull out a great lap when it really mattered. The DRS is also helping Ferrari in qualifying, as it covers up part of its straightline speed deficit, which is a bigger problem for them during the race.
    The McLaren is more aero-efficient than the Ferrari and is also easier on its tyres, which helps them in the race once the tyres have lost their peak grip.

    I am very excited for Imola. Last year Leclerc’s Ferrari went really well there and he managed to score points on his own (without competitors’ retirements), which was a rare scenario in 2020. Alpha Tauri were even stronger there, while McLaren were struggling a bit (especially in qualifying).

  4. Ben (@scuderia29)
    3rd April 2021, 12:14

    …vettel can’t get out of q1, mazepin crashes on first corners, verstappen can only pass Hamilton off the track, alonsos car is very unreliable, tsunoda has poor starts and Norris is faster than ricciardo.

    Any other conclusions based on one race?

    The conclusions after testing were very reliable also, such as “red bull will dominate for the next 6 years” “mclaren are faster than Mercedes” “you won’t see the green on the ferrari in races”

    1. The biggest advantage of back to back races is that these articles (based on last weekend comments) will not last longer than a couple of days.

  5. It was clear in the race that there is a speed difference between the Mercedes engine and the Ferrari engine.

    Reply moderated

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