Lando Norris, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023

Norris says McLaren rivalled Red Bull in quick corners after “surprise” third on grid

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Lando Norris credited faster final sector at the Circuit de Catalunya for helping him secure a “surprise” third place on the grid.

Norris secured his and McLaren’s best starting position since last year’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza by setting the third-quickest time in qualifying at the Circuit de Catalunya, just behind Carlos Sainz Jnr’s Ferrari but ahead of the likes of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and both Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.

Norris said he had “no idea” how he had suddenly found himself in the top three on the grid.

“I’m surprised to be here,” he admitted. “But amazing job.

“P3 – almost P2, but it’s a home race for Carlos so I thought I’d give him a couple of tenths. But very happy. P3 was nice, the whole of qualifying we were quite quick, so all good.”

After a challenging start to the weekend where he was outside the top ten in both Friday practice sessions, Norris says he feels the result was more down to rivals failing to maximise their results than McLaren making a significant step forward in performance.

“I think apart from maybe Bahrain, this was our worst Friday of the season,” Norris explained. “So I really wasn’t that hopeful, but things just seemed to come together.

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“I feel like other people struggled a bit more today than maybe us over-performing or being our true potential. We’ve not really changed the car that much, so there was nothing which was giving me a lot of confidence or any reasons why we were going to be that good today.”

Norris says that the axing of the slow chicane from the final sector at the Barcelona circuit to be replaced by two fast sweepers has worked in McLaren’s favour.

“We’re still pretty poor in many areas, but high speed has always been one of our strengths for years and slow speed quite the opposite,” he explained. “So I think this layout’s helped us. It’s definitely benefited us a bit more.

“I think already from FP2 I was flat in turn three, flat in turn nine. I’m probably one of the few guys apart from Red Bull who did that.

“It’s a track where more of our strengths have been able to be shown. Even though Monaco wasn’t bad, we do struggle a lot in the slow speed corners, so that’s still the area we know we want to take big steps forward.”

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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2 comments on “Norris says McLaren rivalled Red Bull in quick corners after “surprise” third on grid”

  1. RandomMallard
    3rd June 2023, 17:32

    That McLaren is definitely looking a lot better now compared to earlier in the season. Hopefully it shows their upgrades are working, but it could also be a sign that their car works better on more open, traditional race tracks than on street circuits. But both cars into Q3 including a 3rd on the grid is a very strong result for them at the moment.

  2. Flat at T9/Campsa? That corner wasn’t always flat, even in 2017-2020, so amazing if even two 2023-spec cars have managed to do that.

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