McLaren F1 Team was impressive on Friday in Free Practice 1 and 2, with both Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris finishing in the top six in the first session.
McLaren Racing Director Andrea Stella said that the impressive sessions confirmed what the team saw in winter testing and acknowledged that they can’t be complacent with where the car is.
“Performance-wise, I think the car confirmed the progress we saw in the winter – but we have to acknowledge that other teams have also made good progress,” Stella said in a press release.
“Obviously there are midfield teams who seem to have taken a significant step forward, which makes the competition even tighter. But, as ever, we focus on our own performance and I think we have good potential.
“There’s a few things we can optimise overnight and we can fight for Q3. We’re looking forward to qualifying tomorrow and the race on Sunday.”
Norris was the first driver out of the paddock in Free Practice 1, setting the first timed lap of the season. The young Brit finished sixth in both sessions and expressed how happy he was to be back in the car.
“It’s so good to be back in the car, getting up to speed, getting used to driving a Formula 1 car again,” Norris said.
“The first few laps are a bit of a shock to the body, because there’s nothing like driving an F1 car, but it’s great to be back. We got through our run plan, we did a good number of laps and I’m pretty happy with the car.
“There’s always things to improve on from my side and with the car but on the whole it’s a good way to start, so I’m happy. It’s just good to be back and getting in shape again, I’m looking forward to getting back out tomorrow and trying to improve.”
The Spaniard Sainz was the faster of the two McLarens, finishing fourth in Free Practice 1 and a disappointing 10th in Free Practice 2, but the soon to be Scuderia Ferrari driver was happy with the car and gave a warning about the dreaded yellow sausage kerbs.
“It’s a positive first Friday for the team, it felt great to be back in the MCL35. We had some challenges and need to keep an eye on those yellow kerbs,” Sainz explained.
“I ran over one on my flying lap which cost me time on the final sector. Another minor issue kept me in the garage towards the end of the session but until then the car was showing a decent pace.
“We are starting to see the pecking order a little better and we are up for a tight Saturday. Let’s see what happens tomorrow!”