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‘It’s going to be close again’ – McLaren drivers expecting to be ‘well and truly in the mix’ in Spain qualifying

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BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 21: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on

McLaren are getting used to strong days in 2024 – and they had another on Friday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the papaya team looking very much in the fight at the front of the field.

Quick out of the blocks in Free Practice 1, it was Lando Norris who led the way from Red Bull driver Max Verstappen by a mere 0.024s, while the Briton had to settle for third in FP2, albeit just 0.055s off the pace of leader Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes.

FP2: Hamilton sets the pace during second practice in Barcelona ahead of Sainz and Norris

“I think a pretty good day,” was Norris’s verdict after a sweaty day in the car in baking hot conditions in Barcelona.

“It’s never easy in these hot conditions, like it never feels amazing. The tyres overheat very quickly, so it’s difficult to get everything in the perfect window, but I think all in all it was a good start to the weekend.

“I’ve felt pretty comfortable with the car from the beginning. It’s close, and it’s going to be about trying to improve the small things tomorrow because I’m sure it’s going to be close again like it was in Canada.”

Norris focussed on ‘trying to improve the small things’ ahead of Saturday’s pole battle

As Norris led the way for McLaren in the update-less MCL38 – with many of the team’s close rivals bringing updates this weekend – team mate Oscar Piastri had a more subdued day in the #81 car. But after finishing FP2 in P7, 0.358s off the ultimate pace, the Australian was nonetheless confident about his and the team’s chances for the rest of the weekend.

READ MORE: Verstappen pleased with ‘more normal’ Friday in Barcelona as Perez focused on ‘super crucial’ qualifying

“It looks tight out there,” said Piastri. “I think a bit of a tricky day with the track conditions; it was very hot, and much lower grip than I think a lot of us expected. So it took a bit of dialling in for FP2, still some things to work on in my driving but I think we’re getting there with the car.

“I think we’re in a pretty solid place, but it just looks really tight. The long run pace looks pretty good as well, so all in all, a decent day. Maybe not the best Friday of the year but definitely in the mix and if I tidy a few things up, we’ll be well and truly in the mix.

'Lower than expected grip conditions' led to 'tricky' Friday for Piastri

“It looks like quite small mistakes are making a big difference,” added Piastri, “or small differences in tyre preparation and stuff like that, so I’m expecting another tight session tomorrow, and probably a tight race as well.”

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McLaren headed into the Spanish Grand Prix weekend in P3 in the constructors’ standings, 89 points adrift of leaders Red Bull – their total boosted by Norris recording the first win of his career at Miami earlier in the year.

FP2 Highlights: 2024 Spanish Grand Prix

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