Wednesday, 21 Feb, 2024

McLaren F1 “not miles away” from Mercedes & Red Bull

McLaren F1 "not miles away" from Mercedes & Red Bull

McLaren finished third in the Constructors’ Championship last year, and the Woking team affirms its status as the best of the others behind Red Bull and Mercedes in 2021.

While McLaren drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Norris qualified in Bahrain behind a Ferrari and an AlphaTauri in sixth and seventh respectively, Norris worked his way up to fourth place as the highest finisher who did not drive for one of the two top teams.

When asked by whether the 2021 season opener confirmed McLaren’s top position in midfield, Norris said it was “hard to tell” whether the team is the best of the rest, but was encouraged by the fact that McLaren is closer to red Bull and Mercedes than last year.

“We’re close, we’re not far from Mercedes and Red Bull compared to last season,” replied Norris. “I think we’ve closed the gap quite a bit and hopefully closed even more on some tracks.

“It’s hard to tell if we’re the best of each other. I don’t know what the AlphaTauri’s pace was like, but I think the car is good.”

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Norris qualified behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, but after a two-lap battle in the early stages, he managed to overtake the Monegasque driver at Turn 1 and then drive away comfortably.

The AlphaTauri racing pace is little known as Pierre Gasly faced Ricciardo in fifth on the first lap, but his rookie team-mate Yuki Tsunoda showed that the Faenza team has potential as they drive from 13th to 9th.

Norris expects McLaren’s battle against Ferrari and AlphaTauri to “go back and forth” throughout the season, but was confident that McLaren’s racing pace would be superior to Ferrari’s in Bahrain.

“Yeah, I think we kind of knew that from the runs in FP2 and the test we did here,” explained Norris. “I think we have an understanding of what [Ferrari] can do.

“Also last year, Charles was ahead of us in qualifying and the Ferrari can be very quick in qualifying. During the races they seemed to be struggling. I think we were just a lot faster at the pace, which was a good thing, but it will be one give.” Some races where they’ll probably take better care of the tires and be a lot faster.

“It’s going to go back and forth between us and Ferrari and with AlphaTauri it seems to be pretty close between us, so I’m looking forward to the fight.”

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