Lando Norris optimistic yet pessimistic about McLaren car in Japan

Lando Norris was third in both Friday practice sessions for the 2023 Japanese GP


After another impressive showing in practice, McLaren driver Lando Norris is buoyed by the pace of his car following a raft of updates, though he isn’t expecting to challenge the resurgent Red Bulls

Norris was quick in Singapore after grades were fitted and eventually finished the race in second place. Meanwhile in Japan he was third in both Friday’s practice sessions, which were topped by Max Verstappen in the Red Bull

“The pace has been pretty good, probably one of the closest times we’ve been to Red Bull and the front lot on a Friday so encouraging on a pace point of view,” Norris said to F1TV. 

“But the car feels pretty all over the place. But I think it does for the majority, I think it’s very low grip. I don’t think it’s just us in particular, it’s just a handful.

“For us, if we can just try and calm it down a little bit, bring the balance together then I think we can have a good day [on Saturday].

“The pace is good but just difficult to drive.

“I doubt it’s going to be pole. The Red Bull is just doing normal Red Bull at the minute. I don’t think we’re far away. 

“I would say we normally get a bit closer come lower fuel, turn the engines up things like that.

“I think challenging for pole is probably quite a big task and probably a bit too far but to try and challenge Mercedes, who maybe didn’t look quite so good today.

“And challenge the Ferraris and Aston Martins who looked pretty good. I think that is going to be our battle.”

Lando Norris of McLaren | McLaren F1 Team

Verstappen complimentary of McLaren

Although he had a clear advantage in practice, Verstappen feels he could be fighting Ferrari and McLaren for pole position in Suzuka, given Carlos Sainz then Charles Leclerc were second to the Dutchman in FP1 and FP2, respectively. 

“It looks like it’s all a bit tight behind me between Ferrari and McLaren,” Verstappen told F1TV. 

“We will have a look. At the end of the day, we will just focus on ourselves and try to optimise our performance. If we do that, I’m confident we will fight for pole.”

John Smith
Editor at and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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