After a difficult Free Practice 1 for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, in which Lando Norris ended the session twelfth and Carlos Sainz Jr. fourteenth, McLaren F1 Team made gains in the second session with both drivers finishing inside the top ten.
The pair initially struggled heavily with tyre degradation due to the hotter weather conditions and softer tyre compounds allocated for this weekend. However, thanks to running both cars with only soft tyres across the two sessions, the team gained a clearer understanding of both the car’s pace on this softest compound and the extent to which tyre performance dropped off in longer stints.
Sainz viewed this preparation as crucial to Sunday’s race: “All cars seem to struggle with degradation, so it was important to gather as much information as possible to learn on that side. Tyre choice will play a big part for the rest of the weekend, so we needed as much data as possible in order to take better decisions.”
Team-mate Norris agreed: “Obviously, everyone out there lapped pretty well on new tyres, but they degrade a lot in the high-fuel long runs. So, we’re struggling with getting them to last, but at the same time I think we got a good understanding of the balance.“
McLaren are unlikely to employ a risky tyre strategy come the race given Carlos Sainz’s failure two laps from the end of last weekend’s British Grand Prix, but it is expected that other teams will follow suit in erring on the side of caution.
Racing Director Andrea Stella admitted that most of the team’s energy on Friday was invested in gathering data on the tyres. “Tyres, obviously, are a key topic this weekend – not just because of the failures during the British Grand Prix, but also because the allocation is a step softer, which is obviously quite extreme at a demanding track like this one. Our sessions went well, we have gathered good data and we’ll analyse this overnight to give us the best of chance making Q3 and scoring good points in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on Sunday,” he said.
It must also be noted that the McLaren duo, in similar conditions, made comparable gains between sessions leading up to the British Grand Prix, ultimately making it through to the final part of qualifying on Saturday. It would be unusual for at least one car not to reach Q3 this weekend, but rivals Renault DP World F1 Team look fast and could be the team to deny the papaya squad a top-ten start.