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‘We could be 1st or 10th’ – McLaren drivers hope to be ‘in the fight’ in Monaco quali as team reveal strategy gamble

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After high-flying performances at the last three races in China, Miami and Imola, it was a low-key start to the weekend for McLaren during Friday practice at the Monaco Grand Prix, as the team took a different approach to their rivals.

While most teams worked through some performance-focused runs on the soft compound tyres in FP2, Lando Norris completed only a handful of laps with used red-marked rubber in a bid to save sets, while team mate Oscar Piastri did not run them at all.

FP2: Home hero Leclerc sets the pace during busy second practice in Monaco from Hamilton and Alonso

That left Norris fifth on the timesheets, 0.675s away from pace-setting Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, while Piastri was all the way down in 12th, more than a second adrift – with McLaren’s pace relative to the competition even more difficult to gauge.

Speaking after practice, Norris said: “I think we are not bad at all. It’s always tricky around here so first of all it’s nice to be back driving around this track, because it’s as chaotic as it always is and as difficult as it always is. I think it’s a reasonable first day.

“We’re definitely lacking a little bit comparing to Charles and the Ferrari, maybe the Mercedes – the Mercedes looks very quick as well. I think everyone is tighter, just because it is a small track and an abnormal track.

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Piastri and Norris in their Senna tribute shirts

“But we are up there. We have a bit [of performance] to find. I think it’s going to be a difficult day tomorrow, but we are in the fight, which is the main thing.”

Asked on any specific areas he is looking to improve in for Saturday’s running, he added: “It’s a few different things but the main thing you want around here is low-speed grip, so change the balance to get a nice balance to get that.

WATCH: Ride onboard with Leclerc for the fastest lap of Friday practice in Monaco

“Also just the ride. The better the car can go over the bumps and the softer the feel, the better it can also feel. But it’s a trade-off. If you try and do that too much you lose overall performance. We tried a few things today, so hopefully we can understand it tonight and improve it for tomorrow.”

Piastri then expanded on the thinking behind McLaren’s tyre strategy through practice, explaining that forecasts of some showers for Friday afternoon also came into the equation.

Piastri explains why he didn’t run the soft tyres in FP2

“We ran a set of softs in FP1 and you only get a certain amount of softs for the weekend,” he said. “[We were] trying to prepare for quali tomorrow, and we thought at the time there was a high chance of rain for FP2, so we wanted to get some soft running in early.

“But considering that, it’s been a decent day. Ferrari looked quick, Red Bull looked good, Mercedes looked a lot stronger this weekend so far, so it’s very tight. I think it’s been a good day overall.”

NEED TO KNOW: The most important facts, stats and trivia ahead of the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix

Pushed on where McLaren might shake out come qualifying, he continued: “Honestly, we could be first, we could be eighth, but even Aston looked pretty decent, [Fernando] Alonso looked good, so it could be first or it could be 10th.

“It’s been very, very tight between everybody today. Everybody will try to tune up the cars tomorrow and give it a good run. It’s going to be exciting because it’s very much in the drivers’ hands… There are a lot of quick cars out there, so whoever nails the lap will probably end up on pole.”

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