McLaren drivers expect Ferrari and Mercedes will close gap to them in Austin

Formula 1

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The McLaren drivers expect their team will be less competitive in the United States Grand Prix compared to recent rounds.

Over the last three rounds at Singapore, Suzuka and Losail, McLaren have score a combined 104 points – more than any other team on the grid.

Lando Norris has taken three consecutive podium finishes. Team mate Oscar Piastri finished on the podium in Japan and Qatar, and won the sprint race at the latter on Saturday before finishing second to Max Verstappen in the grand prix.

However, despite their recent form, Norris says he is “not so confident,” about McLaren being as strong in Austin this weekend.

“[There’s] just a lot more slow speed corners, which is not our strength,” Norris explained. “I think it’s tough when you look at it.

“If we look at Singapore, obviously we were not bad in Singapore, clearly not as strong as Ferrari but still not a bad race. But we know on these types of circuits, Mercedes is going to be very strong, Ferrari is going to be very strong, Aston [Martin] here in the past have been very strong.

“We knew when we went to Qatar it was going to be a track which really suited us – a lot of medium-high-speed which is where we’re very strong and almost on par with Red Bull. Less of that here and a lot more slow speed, so I’m definitely not as confident. But nevertheless, I’m not saying it’s going to be a bad weekend. I think we can still fight. It’s just going to be a much bigger fight, I think.”

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Team mate Piastri says the notoriously bumpy nature of the Austin track may be a hindrance for McLaren.

“It’s my second time around the circuit,” Piastri said. “I’ve been here before, but not raced here. It’s a really cool circuit, a lot of different types of corners, a lot of elevation change, which is cool as well.

“Qatar was a very smooth track but also had a lot of fast corners and really no slow corners – which is good news for us. Here, I think the bumps won’t be our friend in particular. I mean it’s never anyone’s friend, but I think we might suffer a bit with that.

“Also there’s a lot more slow corners here than, say, Qatar in particular and even Japan. There’s more slow speed corners here. So I think that doesn’t help either.”

Piastri anticipates McLaren will still be able to fight with Ferrari and Mercedes even if they are further off Red Bull’s pace this weekend.

“Obviously Mercedes have got some upgrades, so we’ll see what their performance is like,” he said. “I think the last couple of weekends [although] Mercedes were quick in Qatar I think we were probably second quickest behind Red Bull. And this weekend I don’t think we will be, or if we are it’ll be a lot closer with Ferrari and Mercedes.”

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Despite his podiums at the recent rounds, Norris has admitted to being dissatisfied with his own performance, having made crucial mistakes during both qualifying sessions in Qatar. However, he says he is “not going to change that much” with his approach to driving this weekend.

“The margins are so small and the thing which made it all worse is [that] I was not ‘easily’ but I should have been on pole in both [qualifying sessions],” Norris said.

“I say ‘both’ occasions – definitely for Saturday, maybe not so much for Sunday, but at worst, I should have been first and second or second and first. So when I realised what could have been, and what should have been then coming to the race, how strong our race pace was on Sunday and at parts quicker than the Red Bull, I feel like there was a lot of missed opportunities from my side.

“But at the same time, there’s been plenty of other races this weekend where I’ve not made mistakes and I feel like I’ve performed very well but obviously the ones which always picked up all the bad cases. So yeah, I made the mistakes, I was frustrated at the time. I’ve moved on and I guess it happens to everyone but I’ll try and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

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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...
RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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