Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri are both feeling very “confident” about McLaren’s chances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, although the former was expecting a “very close” battle with their rivals in qualifying.

    Norris sat out FP1 – replaced by their newly-announced reserve driver Patricio O’Ward – but returned for the second hour of running, and wound up second, 0.043s off pace-setter Charles Leclerc, despite multiple stoppages due to red flags.

    FP2: Leclerc leads as Sainz and Hulkenberg crash out in incident hampered second practice in Abu Dhabi

    This comes off the back of a weekend in Las Vegas where McLaren struggled as both drivers were knocked out in Q1, with Norris crashing out in the early stages of the race. But reflecting on his first day in Abu Dhabi, Norris said: “It was decent.

    “Messy of course, not many laps today, I think like five push laps in total. So, not the Friday that I would want, especially from an FP2 perspective and trying to make up laps on everyone, I just felt like I lost even more.

    “But I got comfortable and confident very quickly which is always important on a day when you miss FP1. But I got confident quickly and could push on, the car was performing pretty well, a few things to look into but otherwise a decent day.”

    ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 24: Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 Team
    Norris was second quickest in FP2 after sitting out the first practice session

    Asked if he was optimistic about McLaren's chances, Norris replied: “For just one session today I was happy, the car was obviously quite quick, definitely a bit to find. I think it’s just very close, it’s going to be very close here tomorrow in qualifying.

    “One or two tenths is easily five, six positions come tomorrow afternoon. It’s not if you’re first or last today, I don’t think that really matters, but it’s trying to find the little things tonight that can make a big difference come tomorrow.

    ANALYSIS: Why McLaren’s new Mercedes power unit deal made perfect sense for both parties

    “We are in a good position definitely. We are more confident and comfortable than we were in Vegas and a few other races, but not many high fuel long run laps that I managed to get today. Actually zero. A little bit behind from a long run perspective but maybe I can make up for that tomorrow.”

    Piastri did take part in the opening hour of running, winding up in eighth, and he followed that up with 10th in FP2. It is a track he knows well as the rookie last raced in Abu Dhabi back in 2021 in Formula 2, winning both the Sprint and the feature race as he sealed the title.

    ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 24: Oscar Piastri of Australia and McLaren prepares to
    Piastri says he has some things to work ahead of qualifying but was confident in the car

    “It was nice to be back somewhere I’ve driven before definitely,” said Piastri. “Saying that [it was] not the smoothest day for everyone. FP2 [was] pretty disrupted there, definitely a few things to work on but the car looked really competitive.

    “I’m confident in what I am able to do, just need to tidy up a couple of mistakes and we will be good… FP3 is going to be very different track conditions and you have to be careful with what you learn there.

    WATCH: Sainz crash brings out red flags during FP2 in Abu Dhabi

    “I think the car is in a decent spot, a few things to tweak here and there, a few things to change in my driving but all in all it’s in a good place.”

    When asked what to expect from McLaren in qualifying, Piastri responded: “Q3 is definitely the minimum. I think Lando showed that the pace of the car now, I’m pretty confident if I get everything together, I can be there as well.

    "Maybe we didn’t fully see what Red Bull's pace was like today, but I think we're fighting well and truly at the front.”