‘We never thought we could beat Racing Point,’ admits Norris after career-best 4th in qualifying
Lando Norris secured a career-best fourth place in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix on Saturday – and no one was more surprised than the McLaren driver himself, who said he and his team had not expected to "get close” to the Racing Point cars which had looked so quick in practice.
The RP20 car being driven by Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll has been dubbed ‘the pink Mercedes’ thanks to it’s similarities to last year’s championship winning car, and it appeared to have the pace to match after strong showings in practice at the Red Bull Ring.
But when it mattered in qualifying, Perez was sixth with Stroll in ninth, with Norris ahead of both of them in fourth place.
“For sure I think we had our expectations of where we thought we wanted to be and from the very beginning the Racing Points have clearly been extremely quick. We never thought we'd be in a chance of beating them or getting close to them,” Norris said.
But the 20-year-old Briton said the McLaren MCL35 started to come to him once qualifying got underway on Saturday.
“As you went to lower fuel the car started to come alive and feel much better, and this track last year was very good for us. We had good confidence in the car and it suits it.
“Hopefully the race tomorrow goes well and we have two weekends of this and hopefully we can repeat it as well.”
Starting next to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (P3) and ahead of Alex Albon and Sergio Perez, who are on the third row, Norris said he has his work cut out to stay in fourth on Sunday when F1 racing returns for the first time in 216 days.
“[Racing Point] were definitely quicker than us on Friday. Like we said, we weren't expecting this at all. I'd 100% take it for now but as much as I’ll be looking ahead to the race and trying to look forward I think there's a lot of cars behind us – Ferrari especially, their race pace is very strong; for some reason their quali pace is a long way off, but so is the Racing Point’s.
“[Ferrari] have a good car, a lot of downforce, I think they can look after their tyres slightly better than us so it's going to be a difficult job, but as long as I can stay around where I am then I’ll be happy,” he concluded.