Lando Norris claimed third on the grid for the Spanish Grand Prix but predicted he will be lapped twice in today’s race.Max Verstappen starting in pole position.
Red Bull’s other car, driven by Sergio Perez, will start in 11th after struggling in qualifying. But Norris expects the second RB19 will rapidly progress through the field and does not expect to give him much of a fight.
“I probably won’t defend them to be honest, we’ll just let them pass,” Norris told media including RaceFans.
“It’s going to be a tough one, not just with them, they’re probably the easy people to race against. It’s going to be the Ferraris, the Astons, the Mercedes, the Alpines, the Haas… the grid.
“Those cars are probably too quick for us and Sergio’s going to cruise past everyone and probably be P2 by lap 10 and we’ll get lapped twice. I’m optimistic when I say that, could be three times.
“So, I think we’re still in a tight race with people but our race is not necessarily the Red Bulls.”
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While Norris qualified in third, team mate Oscar Piastri also reached Q3 but a mistake in the final sector of his last lap left him 10th.
The team’s strong showing came after McLaren brought upgrades to the last two weekends following a disappointing start to the year. However Norris doesn’t believe they have made as much progress as it seems.
“Nothing’s really changed on the car,” Norris, who finished ninth in Monaco, added. “It just suited these conditions today. I think we both felt very comfortable and I think Oscar would have been up there too.
“So I don’t know why. I think just a bit more confidence with the rears and just a bit more confidence to lean on the car, lean on the tyres and just seemed more for us than what it seemed for some other people.
“Where we’re going to be tomorrow is a tough one. I think on average we’ve been the fifth-best, sixth-best team, so I’m not really expecting a huge amount better than that tomorrow – we weren’t expecting to be P3 today.”
Norris suspects the change to the circuit layout this year, bypassing the final chicane and using the original quick final two corners instead, came to McLaren’s advantage in qualifying due to their strength in high-speed corners.
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His team mate, meanwhile, was disappointed with his qualifying result. After being sixth-fastest in Q2, Piastri was on course for another good lap in the final session until a mistake on a partly wet and dry track cost him a big opportunity to start higher up.
“I was obviously on a decent lap until that point,” Piastri said. “I braked a little bit too late for turn 10, missed the apex a little bit and then hit a wet part of the track and it was game over from there.
“I’m pretty frustrated with myself in all honesty, it was a good session until then. Just messed up when it counted. I think we should’ve had both cars up towards the front.”
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2023 Spanish Grand Prix
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