McLaren pair surprised to be behind Ferraris in Austin, but looking forward to being 'hunters' on Sunday
Even after Ferrari surprised McLaren with their pace in qualifying, Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris said they were looking forward to being the hunters in Sunday’s race at the Circuit of The Americas.
McLaren looked quick in the build-up to qualifying but Ferrari outqualified them with both cars, as Charles Leclerc will start from fourth and Carlos Sainz fifth ahead of Ricciardo and Norris in sixth and seventh respectively. Ricciardo wasn’t fully comfortable with his performance after sneaking through to Q3 with a late lap, but says he isn’t fazed by having to chase down the Ferraris ahead.
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“Q1 was probably the best lap of the session,” Ricciardo said. “It was where I felt probably the most comfortable. The medium, I didn’t feel that great. It was a little hairy, although I’m happy to start the race on that tyre, but on one lap I didn’t really get comfort on that. Then back to the softs in Q3 was better.
“So very close to Carlos, when the gap’s that small that’s definitely achievable but I think Charles was maybe two tenths up the road and I don’t think we had that in Q3. I want to say obviously we want to be ahead but we’re close enough to not be discouraged, and we’ll be the hunters tomorrow.”
Ricciardo beat his team mate Norris who felt he could have beaten Sainz but for errors late in his final lap, having been surprised by the improvement from Ferrari on Saturday.
“We were kind of expecting to be ahead of the Ferraris, they made a good step today compared to where they were yesterday,” Norris said. “So I guess we didn’t get our hopes up yesterday but they made a good jump from yesterday to today. We were still competitive, we were still not bad, but they were just quicker.
“Not an easy day, I didn’t feel it was too bad. I made a couple of mistakes – just the last two corners I overcooked a little bit – so I probably lost a couple of positions there but it happens and I’ll make up for it tomorrow.”
Both McLaren drivers start on the medium compound on Sunday while Sainz will be on softs, but Norris doesn’t believe the strategic differences will turn out to be overly significant.
READ MORE: Leclerc thrilled to beat both McLarens in COTA qualifying, but Sainz braced for tough race on soft tyres
“We do have a good car, just today Ferrari were that little bit ahead. It wasn’t like they were four or five tenths ahead, they were just a little bit ahead, so I think we have a chance, especially with Carlos on the softs, but the softs aren’t a bad tyre so it’s not like he’s just going to be shocking and they made a terrible move.
“I think he’s going to have an advantage on at least the first half of the first stint, so there’s still things that they’ve gained from starting on the softs, but I think in the long run hopefully we can pip them.”