A less than perfect Saturday has seen McLaren qualify P10 and P13 at the Dutch GP, with a lack of pace and grip to blame.
The Dutch GP has been made all the more difficult for McLaren to score a good haul of points. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris will start further down the order than the team would have liked, after a disappointing qualifying session on Saturday.
After an up and down weekend during practice, the pair couldn’t quite string everything together for qualifying. Ricciardo managed to finish as high as P6 during Q2. However, could only manage P10 during Q3, after experiencing what he called a lack of grip in the final session.
Zandvoort was expected to be one of McLaren’s more difficult weekends of the season, given the nature of the track. With the MCL35M more suited to the longer and high speed tracks such as Spa and Monza.
“75 per cent of quali, in Q1 and Q2, was really good relative to where we thought we were,” Ricciardo said. “There were a lot of things that felt good, and the lap times were good. It came to me quite naturally and normally, and I was able to improve a little bit in each corner. I felt comfortable.
“In Q3 I felt like I was lacking grip from Turn One, so it was a bit more of a struggle from then on. We don’t really know why yet. The track might have changed and maybe we just missed something, but we’ll look into that and try to find an answer. It’s frustrating as Q3 dictates the grid and that was our worst run in qualifying. There’re some positives to take from today, but still some unknowns. We’ll keep working at it.”
While teammate Norris had a shock exit during Q2, only managing P13. One of the standouts during qualifying this year, Norris seemed to struggle extricating performance out of his car. With his pace considerably down compared to those around him.
Back-to-back red flags from the Williams duo of George Russel and Nicholas Latifi also hampered Norris’ second run in Q2. With the session cut short after Latifi’s impact with the barrier.
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“Not the day I wanted or that we were expecting – I just didn’t do the best job,” Norris said. “I didn’t feel too confident in qualifying to hook it all up and put it together. It’s probably the closest qualifying we’ve had all year.
“It’s a shame as this is the race we really needed to be strong, but we just didn’t manage it. We also didn’t get that last opportunity to try again because of the red flag. It’s going to make our day tomorrow very tricky, but I think we’re definitely quicker than a few other cars ahead of us, so hopefully we can still score some points.”
McLaren’s biggest hurdle for race day will be overtaking. Zandvoort looks to be a track where it will be difficult to pass. While there are some areas of the track where it is possible, a small mistake or wrong line will quickly find drivers in the barrier.
The two Ferrari’s will be starting side by side at P5 and P6, well ahead of Ricciardo and Norris. The McLaren drivers will need to ensure they have a good start, prior to the field settling in for the race, and the difficulty of overtaking increasing.
It's the first #F1 race at Zandvoort since 1985! 🙌
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“This was a very difficult Saturday afternoon for us,” McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl said. “On both sides of the garage, it was simply difficult to extract more performance out of the car. Daniel’s Q1 and Q2 went well and he could put in a very good lap at the start of Q2, which allowed him to progress to Q3 despite the difficulties we experienced today, but we then struggled with grip in Q3. On Lando’s side, in three attempts he never felt really comfortable with pushing to the limit. He missed his final opportunity in Q2, but even with that, it was marginal whether he would progress.
“Given the nature of the Zandvoort track, this puts us in a difficult position for the race, given how hard it is to overtake here. At the same time, so far this weekend we’ve seen that this is a track where a lot can happen. The job tonight is to see what we can learn from today [Saturday], make any improvements we can make and be ready to take any opportunities that may come our way tomorrow.”