Lando Norris has looked to soften expectation over McLaren’s rate of improvement despite qualifying third for Sunday’s 2023 Spanish Grand Prix, beating out the likes of Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes and the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso in the process.
After having his final lap scuppered in Monaco, Norris enjoyed a stellar qualifying session in Barcelona, setting the third-fastest time and securing McLaren’s first top-three starting position of 2023.
“Nothing’s really changed on the car,” Norris told media, including Total-Motorsport.com. “As much as I’d love to say, Oh, the car [is] improving, it’s not changed much.
“I think just going into qualifying, things started to come alive at all, a little bit more confidence with the rears and to lean on the car and tyres. Where we’re going to be tomorrow is a tough one.
“On average, we’ve been [the] fifth-sixth [quickest] team. So I’m not expecting a huge amount tomorrow. We’ve just [got to be] careful with [expectations].
“I think it was just very tight, and we just put everything together, that’s why we got the result we did.”
Alpine, not Aston Martin, the real race
Saturday’s qualifying session in Barcelona saw a number of big names struggle for pace, with Fernando Alonso starting Sunday’s race ninth, Sergio Perez 11th, George Russell 12th and Charles Leclerc a surprise 19th.
The high-profile exits have played into the hands of both McLaren and Alpine, but with Red Bull and Aston Martin showing strong pace, holding on to third could be a difficult task.
“[I] probably won’t defend [against] them, to be honest, let them pass”, joked Norris. “It’s going to be a tough [race]. I don’t think there’s an easy competitor [tomorrow].
“The [Aston Martins and Ferraris] are probably too quick for us. We have a chance of racing Alpines and maybe some of the other cars.
“Sergio will cruise past everyone and be P2 by lap ten. We’ll get lapped twice. [It’s] still in a tight race with [others], but our race is not necessarily [with] the Red Bulls.”