Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are both wary that McLaren could pose a threat at this weekend’s opening Formula 1 race in Bahrain.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was third quickest in the opening practice session on Friday and followed that up with the second quickest time in second practice, less than a tenth shy of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
That put him a tenth ahead of Hamilton. Although Norris has downplayed McLaren’s pace, Hamilton was impressed by his former teams performance on Friday.
“We thought Red Bull would be as fast as they are, if not faster,” said the Briton. “So we know they are leading at the moment.
“McLaren are looking great and it’s great to see them taking a step. It’ll be interesting to see how their long runs are.”
Bottas was also impressed, adding: “We’re definitively in the mix. McLaren…they looked pretty strong today, Red Bull was as expected. I think we are there, I don’t think we’re the fastest at the moment, but we’re not far off and we have a clear target of where we want to be.”
McLaren has of course switched to Mercedes power for 2021 and debuted an interesting diffuser design which its rivals will be keen to copy.
Hamilton, like Bottas, isn’t quite sure where Mercedes stand, particularly on longer runs with instability at the rear of the car.
“I know we still have a hill to climb, but we’re staying positive.
“That’s not great for us, being that the rear is as unstable as it is. For people watching at home trying to understand, when you approach a corner and the rear moves, you are trying to find that tipping point. The tipping point used to be further away with more downforce on the car and now it falls away much quicker than normal,” he explained.