Lando Norris: “We’re ahead of the midfield guys we wanted to beat”

by Paul Hensby

Lando Norris was pleased with the result of Qualifying for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after grabbing seventh on the grid on Saturday, which will become a sixth-place start thanks to Valtteri Bottas’ grid penalty for an engine change.

The McLaren F1 Team driver’s performance in Qualifying ensured he was the best of the rest behind the leading three teams, denying Renault F1 Team’s Daniel Ricciardo by just 0.020 seconds, and team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. by 0.023 seconds.

Norris also won the inter-team Qualifying battle against Sainz by eleven races to ten, although the Spaniard has had the better results on Sunday, something the Briton will be aiming to rectify this weekend.

“A good quali for me, Carlos and the team,” said Norris.  “We achieved P7 but a P6 grid start taking into account the Bottas penalty, so I’m happy. It’s been a pretty good couple of days. I’ve generally been fairly comfortable with the car, which has been positive.

“We knew quali was going to be tough and our aim was to get into Q3 and we did that. We’re ahead of the midfield guys we wanted to beat, so that’s a bonus. It couldn’t have been any better in terms of positions – it’s a good way to end the season.”

Carlos Sainz Jr. believed he should have qualified higher than ninth in Abu Dhabi – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Sainz Believes Seventh Should have Been His

Team-mate Sainz felt he had the pace to qualify higher than ninth, but a messy out-lap in the closing moments of the session left him compromised, and it meant he was unable to beat Norris to seventh, a position he felt he should have been instead.

“I’m very disappointed with that P9 when I’d been very strong in Q1 and Q2,” said Sainz.  “I was looking forward to putting another good lap together in Q3, but the out-lap was far from ideal. We got ourselves into trouble with the Mercedes and Ferrari and my last attempt was compromised.

“It’s a shame, because matching my Q2 lap would have put us P7 easily. I expect a tough race tomorrow and we need to switch our focus quickly.”

Just 0.023 seconds separated Sainz in ninth from team-mate Norris in seventh – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Seidl Delighted with Team Response after Challenging Friday

Team Principal Andreas Seidl said it was pleasing to put together a strong Qualifying session, particularly after a testing Friday in Abu Dhabi where they were struggling for performance and pace. 

He feels the starting positions will give both drivers the chance to make places up in the Drivers’ Championship, with McLaren having already secured fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship thanks to the result of the Brazilian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

“After a challenging Friday, the team here at the track, together with the support we got from the factory, made the right calls on improving the performance of our cars overnight,” said Seidl.  “The team executed well again today in quali, both drivers pulled it off when it counted and it’s great for us to finish the last quali of the season with both cars in the top 10.

“Starting tomorrow in P6 and P8 gives us a good chance to climb further up the standings in the Drivers’ Championship which will be our focus. We’re looking forward to an exciting last race of the season and sending the MCL34 into retirement in race mode with a good result.”

Lando Norris will start sixth thanks to Valtteri Bottas’ grid penalty – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

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