It was a “positive day” for McLaren in Shanghai according to Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard seeing his name in sixth on the timesheets after a promising FP2, just 0.045s slower than midfield rival Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault works team.
Sainz finished the qualifying runs of FP2 with a lap just 0.811s off Valtteri Bottas’ session-topping time for Mercedes, and ahead of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari – although that car was later found to have potential cooling issues – and Pierre Gasly. And having shown Red Bull-bothering pace at the previous race in Bahrain, Sainz appeared to be eyeing up the cars in front of him once again in China.
“Good day for the team,” he said, “especially after a tough FP1 where we had a few issues in the car that we needed to address for FP2. But we definitely found a better baseline for FP2. Still, you know, it’s so tight that one or two tenths, is the difference in five or 10 kilos of fuel, so if anyone has selected to run a bit heavier or lighter, they’re all within reach in front and behind so let’s keep working hard and keep digging.”
Over on the other side of the garage, rookie Lando Norris appeared to enjoy his first outing on track in China, finishing P8 in FP2 and within 0.2s of Sainz’s time to continue the good news for McLaren.
“It’s been a reasonable day,” he said. “Obviously it’s my first time here, so it’s never easy, but I got up to speed quicker than I did in Australia, probably because I’m just more used to the car and everything.
“We made some steps forward from FP1 to FP2, because we had some small, quite limiting problems in FP1 balance-wise, which we kind of fixed, but we just need to make sure we keep going in that direction for tomorrow.”
Asked if he felt he had the pace to challenge for his third Q3 performance in as many races of his F1 career, Norris replied that he “didn’t want to jinx it”, adding: “It looks very close in the midfield, as it has done all year. It would be nice to have a third in the row, and obviously if we can get both cars even better, but it’s too early to tell.”
McLaren will now be hopeful of their first double finish of 2019 in China, especially given that both drivers will run Renault’s re-designed MGU-K that Sainz used in Bahrain.