Norris Reveals McLaren Qualifying Challenges

Lando Norris has shed light on the underlying factors contributing to his dissatisfaction with his qualifying performances, characterizing Saturdays as “tough” occasions where he struggles to push his McLaren to its limits.

Starting the current F1 season with seventh place in Bahrain and sixth in Saudi Arabia, the British driver has consistently found himself on the second row during qualifying sessions. Notably, he secured fourth on the grid in Australia and third in Japan.

Despite these respectable positions, Norris remains discontented with his ability to fully exploit the potential of his McLaren, a sentiment he believes is recurrent in qualifying sessions.

Norris stated, “I think we still just struggle to get everything out of the car when we need to,” highlighting the ongoing challenge he faces in maximizing his performance on Saturdays. This struggle, he explains, undermines his ability to drive at “100%” and achieve optimal results.

In analyzing his performances, Norris remains critical of his capabilities and emphasizes addressing the underlying issues affecting his qualifying sessions. By pinpointing these challenges, he aims to enhance his consistency and competitiveness on the track.

Moving forward, Norris and the McLaren team are focused on implementing strategies to overcome these hurdles and unlock the full potential of their car during qualifying sessions. Their collective efforts aim to optimize performance and propel Norris toward greater success in future races.

During discussions with media outlets, at the Japanese Grand Prix, the driver reflected on the challenges he faced during the qualifying sessions: “Maybe qualifying is the one where I find it a little bit tough to get everything out of the car.”

“But from my side, as I said last weekend, trying to get everything out of the car in qualifying I struggle with a bit, on myself, and also just with how we are as a team.”

When questioned about the root cause of these challenges, Norris attributed them to the “understanding of the car,” further noting that “things are always changing.”

“Yes, it’s a McLaren and there are certain things that it takes time to pick up on. But everything else is still changing around it – slowly tweaking the aerodynamics over the years, and stuff, to adapt quite a bit to those characteristics.”

Norris suggests that a significant aspect of his qualifying difficulties stems from the inability to fully utilize the ground-effect era McLarens as he desires, forcing him to drive cautiously within his limits.

“In qualifying, I’ve always been wanting to push quite a bit more in certain areas and kind of want to go out and just be attacking,” he stated.

“I have to do the complete opposite. It’s a hard one to get my head around because I want to go out and find another level in qualifying and you can’t do that with these tyres in with and with our car. You almost have to drive it the opposite way.”

The 14-time podium finisher aligns with his team principal Andrea Stella’s perspective that the McLaren must be operated within its capabilities, a notion Norris finds “complicated” and “difficult.”

“I can’t even drive at 100%,” Norris argued. “100% works one lap in 10. So, when you want to go into Q3 and put your best lap on, it might be that one lap you have to drive at 98% or something. It’s just a complicated thing – difficult to be on the limit.”

The 24-year-old has expressed his struggle to swiftly adapt to the demands of the ground-effect McLarens, attributing his difficulty to his familiarity with previous regulations.

“From being used to the cars a few years ago, that’s kind of punishing me now, I’m not adapting quick enough,” Norris explained. “The older regulations were easier to drive and to find the limit. This new car and new tyres are three years old – [but] still the same issues.”

“But that’s something that’s up to me. That’s my job to adapt and to do a better job, just with how our car is and how we have to drive it. It’s always been said, and it continues, to be quite a tricky car to drive – to execute a perfect qualifying lap every single time is not an easy thing to do.”