Lando Norris bemoaned losing track time during Friday afternoon’s free practice session at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza as his McLaren F1 Team mechanics dealt with an engine-related issue, but the Briton was still able to finish an encouraging third fastest overall.
The single-lap pace of the MCL35 looked good throughout the day, with the Briton ending eighth fastest in the morning session before he set a time of 1:21.089 to be the best of the rest behind the two Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers in the afternoon.
Norris says the loss of track time has hurt as he has been unable to get any significant data about how the car works across long runs, and he hints that this may mean sacrificing some time in final practice on Saturday morning to gather data for race day.
“Not the best Friday just because of the lack of running,” said Norris. “We didn’t really get the chance to do any high-fuel runs, so we’re not in the best position.
“We’re in good shape for tomorrow, but we’re still a bit behind in our prep for Sunday. So, we might have to compromise FP3 tomorrow to try to fit in some more high-fuel runs and catch up.
“I have a decent feeling for the car, but this is the track where you want good confidence throughout the lap – you want confidence under braking and in the high-speed corners, and I’m not quite as confident as I could be today due to the lack of laps. We’ll try to make up for it tomorrow.”
“It was a decent Friday and the pace seemed encouraging” – Carlos Sainz Jr.
Team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. was encouraged by the performance of his MCL35, with the Spaniard finishing inside the top ten in both sessions on Friday.
Sainz, who will leave McLaren at the end of 2020 to join Scuderia Ferrari, finished tenth fastest in the morning session before improving to sixth in the afternoon, although he was more than two-tenths of a second adrift of Norris.
“It was a decent Friday and the pace seemed encouraging,” said Sainz. “I think we’ve had a strong couple of sessions, where we managed to try a lot of different set-up combinations and got to try laps with and without a tow.
“We’ll need to have a look at the data on the long runs and work out how we’re looking there too, but overall, it’s been a smooth Friday.”
“We’re relatively happy with the behaviour of the car” – Andrea Stella
Andrea Stella, the Racing Director at McLaren, admitted it was not a perfect day by any means for the team on Friday, but it was a productive one that showed promising pace from both cars.
Stella says the team will look at the data overnight to see what needs improving, but he said both drivers were happy with the balance and behaviour of the car that bodes well for the rest of the Monza weekend.
“Monza is an interesting track with unique characteristics, which demand we run the car in a very low-downforce configuration,” said Stella. “We had a few things to test today and adapt to that configuration and, overall, the two sessions were productive.
“However, it wasn’t a perfect day because we had some issues with Lando’s power unit, which took a few runs to identify and correct. That was accomplished towards the end of FP2, allowing him to do a run at the end of FP2.
“Overall, we’re relatively happy with the behaviour of the car and what we’ve learned today. We hope we can take that forward into the rest of the weekend.”