Austrian GP Qualifying: Lando Norris puts McLaren on the front row

Austrian GP Qualifying: Lando Norris puts McLaren on the front row

For the first time in his Formula 1 career, Lando Norris will be starting from the front row. After putting his McLaren P2 on the grid during Saturday’s Austrian GP qualifying session.

Saturday’s Austrian GP qualifying session was a nail biter, with Lando Norris’ great run of form continuing. A stellar final lap in Q3 saw him finish just 0.048 seconds behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Good enough to claim second place on the grid, his highest starting position since joining Formula 1 three years ago.

Ahead of Verstappen for much of the lap, it all came down to the final corner. With the Red Bull driver getting the better exit and onto the power earlier, to jump Norris on the main straight and take pole.

This is the first time in nine years that McLaren will start from the front row of the grid, with 2012 being the last time the Woking-based team made it to the front. That being said, while Norris was excited to be mixing it up with the big boys, he acknowledged the fact that turn 10 has been a corner he’s struggled with throughout the weekend.

“I’m happy enough. I’m happy with P2,” Norris said while speaking with Sky Sports F1 after qualifying. “I’m super happy, of course, mixing it with the big guys!

“I’m a racing driver, I’ve got to blame that they’re in a better car, so they’re able to do things that I’m not, which is true. But yeah, I don’t have any excuses. We are where we are. I feel like I pretty much maximised everything. Even with the last corner, it was the best last corner that I did, but we’ve just struggled there since day one here. It’s just one of the corners we have a bit of a weakness in.

“But I don’t need to talk about that; I’m really happy with P2. My best qualifying in F1, one of my best laps, and yeah, it’s a good feeling.”

While Norris was critical of his final corner, for the most part, he was pleased with the rest of his lap. Explaining that a loss of speed in the straights due to a lack of slipstream, meant he had to make up time in the corners.

“I was slower on the straights than my previous best lap because I didn’t have as much of a slipstream,” he continued. “But I made up for it in the corners. I had a better exit out of turn one, which also helped. Max was what, four seconds ahead of me, which still helps and is better than nothing.

“Maybe there could’ve been a little more if I had that little tow from another car ahead of me, but I also would’ve lost a little bit more in the corners. So it’s just the way it is sometimes. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you gain.”

Starting third at last weekend’s Styrian GP, Norris managed to stay ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and the Mercedes of Valterri Bottas for the opening laps, before letting the pair pass. Later stating his race wasn’t with them, but in ensuring he stayed ahead of Ferrari.

While his McLaren may not have the overall race pace of his Red Bull and Mercedes rivals, whether or not Norris employs the same strategy as last weekend is something we will find out in the first few laps.

“First few corners we have a chance, just like last weekend to do something and to gain a place, yeah I want to be positive and go we’re gonna have an awesome race, but I know it’s not going to be incredible.

“We’re not as quick as [Red Bull and Mercedes]. Maybe today we are when we have low fuel, new tyres, but our car is simply not as quick as their car. That’s why they’re able to be so much quicker in the race than we are. The car is a lot more on the limit, a lot less forgiving and so on. Yeah, we have a worse car, but I’m still P2, so I’m happy with my job.”

But while Norris is happy starting up in second, teammate Daniel Ricciardo will be languishing far behind. Starting 13th, after failing to make it into Q3 for the fourth time out of the last five races.