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Piastri says ‘confidence is high’ for what McLaren can achieve in Imola after narrowly missing out on pole

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IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 18: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red

Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris are feeling optimistic about McLaren’s prospects for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix following a strong performance in qualifying, with the pair just a tenth away from pole-sitter Max Verstappen in P2 and P3.

With Piastri having topped the timesheets during an eventful third practice session earlier in the day, the Australian continued to show good pace when it came to qualifying. While he was unable to beat Verstappen’s benchmark of a 1m 14.746s, his final effort was only 0.074s off, putting him alongside the Dutchman on the front row.

READ MORE: Verstappen grabs unexpected pole position in Imola ahead of Piastri and Norris

Asked for his thoughts after stepping out of the car, Piastri reflected: “It was pretty good. A little bit of a scruffy last corner, but I think around here it’s so, so difficult to do a perfect lap. I’m really happy, I’ve been really comfortable with the car since the moment we put it on track yesterday.

“It’s so, so close to pole, but I’m very happy. It’s been a little while since I’ve been up here, so I’m very happy with how this weekend’s going so far.”

2024 Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying: Piastri crosses the line to seal front row grid slot at Imola

Pushed on whether he can fight for even more come race day, Piastri sounded a confident note as he responded: “I think yes. I think normally in the past we’ve said no, but I think with our recent performances we’ve learned to say yes. We’ll see what we can do.

“I think we’ve definitely been on the pace all weekend. You can never count out Max and Red Bull, of course, like we’ve just seen. I think the confidence is high, of course it’s not the easiest track to overtake on, but I think the confidence is high that we can do something good.”

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from final practice at Imola as Piastri sets the pace while Alonso and Perez crash

The bad news for Piastri was that an hour or so after speaking to the media, he was handed a three-place grid drop for impeding the Haas of Kevin Magnussen in Q1, dropping him to a fifth-place start for Sunday.

Norris, meanwhile, felt satisfied with his own qualifying, having noted the fine margins between McLaren and the Red Bull of Verstappen.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 18: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on

Norris was pleased with McLaren's performance after claiming P3 in qualifying

“It was great,” the Briton said of the session. “P3 is not a bad job at all. Within a tenth, both of us [McLaren drivers], for P1…

“Tiny, tiny margins, but I think for us as a team we’ve had a very good day, a very good weekend so far. Oscar’s done a great job, and so did Max, so it’s exciting, exciting, we’re close, and I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

READ MORE: Stella highlights the ‘important’ lessons McLaren learned from Sochi 2021 after Norris’s breakthrough win

Having taken his maiden F1 victory last time out in Miami, Norris acknowledged that the team are still adjusting to having the ability to win.

“We still need to get used to it, but we’re getting closer,” he explained. “To be ahead of Ferrari is also a nice result for us. It’s going to be close, it’s going to be a good race tomorrow, hopefully it’s an exciting one to watch, also an exciting one in the car, but tough, especially when the lap times are so tight.

“A lot of it is down to Turn 1, Lap 1, the strategy, the pit stops, so it’s going to be a tough race.”

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