Both McLarens in the top ten on Friday at Suzuka

by Tom Cairns
Carlos Sainz Jr. - McLaren F1 Team in the 2019 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka International Racing Course - Free Practice 2

McLaren F1 Team have put themselves in the mix for points this weekend after showing strong signs of performance once again during practice on Friday for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Carlos Sainz Jr. began the morning with an electrical problem as soon as he exited the pits, which brought out the Virtual Safety Car and losing around thirty minutes of track time before returning to the circuit.

The Spaniard recovered well to finish seventh in Free Practice 1 and nearly two seconds off the pace. Sainz would end the second session in the same position with a time that was over one and a half seconds quicker than what he had set in the morning.

With no running on Saturday due to the typhoon, the McLaren driver completed fifty laps throughout Friday to gather as much data as possible for his team to analyse before qualifying begins on Sunday morning.

“I think it’s been a positive Friday – after a little heart attack at the start of FP1,” Sainz shared.

“We managed to get the car back to the garage, the mechanics did a great job to get everything ready and we went back out to complete our run programme. FP2 was also intense but I’m happy with how both sessions went. The car feels good and we looked competitive.

“However, not running tomorrow means there were different run plans today, so we can’t tell for sure where our competitors are. There is a bit of uncertainty but I’m confident we’ll be ready for Sunday.”

Lando Norris - McLaren F1 Team - 2019 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka International Racing Course- Free Practice 1
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Lando Norris suffered no mechanical gremlins during his running, as he concluded both sessions in tenth place and completing nine laps more than his team-mate throughout the day.

Minus slight confidence, the Englishman has every optimism that McLaren “can take a step forward” during qualifying and the race.

“A good day. Everything we planned to do, we got through,” Norris said. “We did the testing we needed to accomplish: high-fuel, low-fuel and got good readings and data from everything we did.

“I’ve only previously done FP1 here last year, so in terms of driving, I’ve got a bit to work on. I’m not quite as confident as I would want to be, so we’ll make some changes before Sunday for qualifying – if it happens. By improving my driving and the set-up, we can take a step forward.”

Performance Director Andrea Stella was happy with how the MCL34 coped with the Suzuka International Racing Course, considering the grid could be decided on the times from Free Practice 2

“We’ve had a decent day. Carlos had an electrical issue which delayed his running in FP1, but otherwise everything went smoothly,” Stella added.

“The car behaved well both on low fuel and high fuel. It was, of course, an unusual day in that we had extra sets of tyres available from those that we usually allocate to FP3, and we also had to take into account that FP2’s times might count for grid positions.

“That meant there was a bit of racing mixed in with the usual Friday activities, which we enjoyed. Sunday is going to be another interesting day with qualifying and the race – we’re looking forward to it.”

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