Lando Norris described McLaren’s MCL60 as “all over the place” despite posting encouraging lap times during Japanese Grand Prix practice on Friday.
Norris followed up finishing second at Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix by classifying third in both one-hour sessions at Suzuka.
Norris finished the day four-tenths of a second behind pacesetter Max Verstappen, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc second overall to the World Champion.
“The pace was there, the pace has been pretty good today,” said Norris.
“It’s probably one of the closest times we’ve been to Red Bull and the front lot on a Friday, so I think encouraging from a pace point of view, but the car feels pretty all over the place: I kind of think it does for the majority.
“It’s just very low grip, I don’t think it’s just us in particular, it’s just a handful, which I think for us if we can just calm it down a little bit, bring the balance together, I think we can have a good day tomorrow. But the pace is good, just difficult to drive.”
Norris believes he and McLaren can be firmly in the mix for best-of-the-rest honours behind Verstappen.
“I doubt it’s going to be pole; the Red Bull is just doing normal Red Bull [things] at the minute,” he said.
“But I think we are not 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 quite too far, but to try and challenge Mercedes, who maybe didn’t look quite so good today, challenge the Ferraris, and Astons, who looked pretty good. I think it’s going to be our battle for tomorrow.”