Lando Norris, McLaren, Suzuka, 2023

McLaren handling “all over the place” but closer to Red Bull than usual – Norris

Formula 1

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Lando Norris says he was encouraged by McLaren’s pace in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix but admitted he struggled with his car’s handling around the Suzuka circuit.

Norris ended Friday third-fastest, just under half a second slower than pace setter Max Verstappen. His McLaren team mate Oscar Piastri, running the team’s latest upgrades for the first time, was eighth at the end of second practice.

Speaking after the session, Norris said he was happy with the performance shown by McLaren over the opening day of running.

“The pace was there. The pace has been pretty good today,” Norris said. “I think [it’s] probably one of the closest times we’ve been to Red Bull and the front lot on a Friday. So I think it’s encouraging from a pace point of view.”

However, Norris said that despite McLaren’s speed, he was struggling with his car’s handling during the two sessions.

“The car feels pretty all over the place,” he said, “but I kind of think it was for the majority.

“It’s just very low-grip. I don’t think it’s just us in particular, it’s just a handful. So I think for us, if we can just try and calm it down a little bit, bring the balance together, I think we can have a good day tomorrow. The pace is good, just difficult to drive.”

Despite rivals such as Mercedes’ George Russell previously predicting Norris and McLaren would be among the favourites for victory this weekend, Norris believes Red Bull are too quick for them based on practice performance.

“The Red Bull is just doing normal Red Bull at the minute, but I think we’re not far away,” he said.

“I would say we normally get a bit closer come lower fuel, turn the engines up, things like that. I think challenging for pole is probably quite a big ask and probably a bit too far.

“But to try and challenge Mercedes, they maybe didn’t look quite so good today, challenging the Ferraris and Astons, I think that’s going to be our battle for tomorrow.”

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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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