Qualifying exceeded McLaren’s expectations

Carlos Sainz

Qualifying for the Formula 1 French Grand Prix exceeded the expectations of McLaren with Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz claiming the third row.

Norris is set to start from fifth in Sunday’s race, one place ahead of his team-mate.

In doing so, the pair out-qualified the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.

It’s the best qualifying result of the season for McLaren, and comes after the team showed strong pace throughout practice.

“We didn’t expect to beat a Red Bull and a Ferrari,” Sainz told Sky Sports.

“It means we are doing our homework, we are doing our analysis back home, we are bringing things that help the car.

“But I think it’s also the track. The track is suiting us. I don’t know why; the tarmac, the specifications of the track. We need to analyse why and enjoy it.”

The pace of the two McLarens left Daniel Ricciardo impressed; eighth fastest in qualifying, the Australian was comprehensively out-paced by the duo.

“Obviosuly we got beat by the two McLarens but they were a long way down the road,” Ricciardo said.

“They’ve got like a little hidden update that they’ve never told anyone about! It’s impressive, their pace, but we couldn’t match that.”

A steady stream of updates has been bolted onto the McLaren to improve its performance throughout the season, with Sainz pointing to those brought for the Spanish Grand Prix as being most significant.

The Spaniard has also been working with the team on a different program in Friday practice to Norris as it ‘experiments’ on the opening day of the race weekend.

“We introduced an upgrade in Spain that worked really well in high speed corners, like Turn 9, Turn 3 in Spain,” he explained.

“But somehow it wasn’t working very well in slow speed, and finally when we come to a track that you have high and low and medium speed, I think that upgrade is paying off a bit better.

“We are bringing little things every weekend. You’re never going to see a massive upgrade but we are bringing things every weekend,” he added.

“There’s a lot of experiments going on on Fridays.

“This time it made me be a bit on the back foot going into the Saturday and I had to catch up a bit, and maybe I was not quite there yet in qualifying.”

Sainz trailed Norris by just over a tenth of a second in qualifying, with the Spaniard now hoping to simply maintain his position in the race, or perhaps steal fifth from Norris.

“I think if there’s a day to be a bit more cautious with your team-mate it’s tomorrow when you start side by side,” he reasoned.

“Lando has been very strong this weekend. I was, as I said, on the back foot since yesterday.

“I think he has a tenth on me at the moment but maybe tomorrow in the race that can change.”

The French Grand Prix is scheduled to begin at 2310 AEST on Sunday.

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