Lando Norris, McLaren, Zandvoort, 2023

Norris faces “tough decision” over set-up given strong qualifying pace

2023 Dutch Grand Prix

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Lando Norris said he faces a difficult decision over how to set his McLaren up for this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix after leading the opening day of practice at Zandvoort.

The McLaren driver pipped Max Verstappen to the fastest time in second practice by a mere two hundredths of a second. However Norris is convinced Red Bull have more performance in hand for tomorrow’s qualifying session.

“I think they’re still a bit ahead,” he told Sky. “Normally we’re always a bit closer today [Friday] than we kind of turn out to be. But I’m still happy, I’m positive, it’s a good day.

“Normally the Red Bulls just step it up another level when it comes to Saturday. So we’ll see. But I’m feeling good, especially on the low-fuel [runs] I’m happy, with the high-fuel not so much.”

Norris has already started from the front row of the grid once this year and came within a tenth of a second of taking pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix. The decision he takes on how far to focus on single-lap pace or race stint performance could determine whether he takes the second pole position of his career on Saturday.

“It’s a tough decision,” he admitted. “It’s one we have to talk about and decide because it’s not the easiest track to overtake on.”

Verstappen won the last race at Spa-Francorchamps, finishing more than half a minute ahead of the closest non-Red Bull car. and Norris does not believe McLaren have the pace to out-race them even if they out-qualify them.

“Even if we qualify ahead of a Red Bull, our race is not with them on Sunday, they’re way too fast for us,” he said. “Even if I had the best tyre degradation I’ve ever had, they’ll still overtake us.

“So our race will probably not be with them. But it’s a difficult track to overtake on, so we’ll decide tonight.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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5 comments on “Norris faces “tough decision” over set-up given strong qualifying pace”

  1. Coventry Climax
    25th August 2023, 18:46

    I’d set it up for a good race, that’s where the points are earned. Why bother with qualifying? So maybe you’re down a few positions; that’s easily made up with DRS if your race pace is better. Plus there’s a decent chance of safety car periods on this short, narrow and twisty circuit, which also suffers from wind coming mostly unobstructed from the sea.

    1. On the other hand, it might well be that it proves hard enough to overtake that getting a better gridslot will help get a podium.

  2. What’s the weather forecast?

    If it’s going to be wacky races then focus on quali. If it’s dry then focus on the race.

    1. The weather should be pretty de e ent in Saturday with a few spats of rain during the day but quite low temperature (18 Celsius) but Sunday we might get a shower (0.9mm/h) right around the start of the GP and 17 degrees. It will be slippery and a gamble between inters and dry tyres if that happens.

  3. He’s kind of answered it himself – just go for pole and then hope for the best in the race. It’s true that better race pace might be the difference between a podium and a p4 or p5, but I feel a pole would give him and the team more satisfaction than another podium.

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