Lando Norris believes McLaren’s upgraded 2023 Formula 1 car will enable it to be in the fight at the front of the field in qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix.
McLaren introduced a substantial upgrade package earlier in the year in Austria that transformed the team’s prospects from scrapping for minor points in the early races to competing for regular podium finishes.
The Woking-based squad has brought a further raft of new parts this weekend, targeted primarily at improving the MCL60’s deficiency through slow-speed corners.
After ending both Friday practice hours inside the top six at the Marina Bay Circuit, Norris asserts that McLaren’s updates are behaving how the team expected.
“I think it was a positive day we certainly weren’t expecting to be P1 or anything,” he said. “[F]P1 maybe looked more positive initially, but we are always good at getting up to speed, I feel it’s a good strength of mine, getting up to speed on a tricky track.
“Good day, I think we’ve definitely taken some steps forward, the new bits are looking like they’re doing what they are meant to which is a good thing. A couple of mistakes maybe which cost me a bit of lap time, plenty of things for us to improve on for tomorrow.”
While Ferrari looks to have the upper hand on the competition after finishing 1-2 in both practice sessions, the battle behind the Italian marque appears well-poised.
Red Bull, who have won all 14 rounds this year, struggled for speed on Friday, with Max Verstappen suggesting the Austrian outfit’s pace was “worse than expected”.
Norris believes McLaren will be competing against Red Bull, along with Aston Martin and Mercedes, during qualifying on Saturday.
When asked whether McLaren’s encouraging Friday showing granted him hope for the remainder of the race weekend, Norris responded: “Good positions, I think we are way too far from Ferrari, Ferrari are way too fast for us at the minute so, they’re strong. They’re extremely good in slow speed.
“Coming in, we knew we were maybe second, third, fourth quickest, in that bunch. I was expecting Ferrari to be quickest by quite a margin which they are which kinda makes sense. We’re not far behind I think if we put in a mega lap we can get close.
“We are in the fight with Mercedes, the Astons and the Red Bulls, it’s looking like it’s gonna be an exciting qualifying tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri will only receive the entire upgrade package at next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, placing him on the back foot.
However, the Australian, who is embarking upon his debut F1 outing in Singapore, remains optimistic that he can still challenge for a strong result this weekend.
“I think for me the biggest thing at the moment is still just driving and really getting the most out of myself, getting more used to the track,” Piastri explained.
“It’s difficult around here so I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s still a reference it’s not a completely different category of car so it’s still useful to have Lando as a reference, but of course, there’s a little bit of a built-in gap.
“I’ll try my best try and keep learning, that’s where my focus is at the moment and hopefully, we can set it up for a decent weekend.”