After two consecutive unsuccessful weeks of racing, McLaren are looking to bounce back with a big points haul at the inaugural Qatar GP.
McLaren are hoping this weekend’s maiden Qatar GP will provide them with the opportunity to close the gap to Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship. Scoring only two points over the last fortnight has seen the Woking-based team be jumped by the Scuderia, who now hold a 31.5-point advantage.
With just three races remaining, including the Qatar GP, repeating back-to-back third place finishes in the Constructors’ Championship is slowly slipping out of McLaren’s grasp. Realistically, even if both McLaren cars finish inside the top 10, the team will need to outscore Ferrari considerably over the coming weeks to have any chance of retaining ‘best of the rest’.
As Formula 1 heads to the Losail International Circuit for the first time, the playing field is somewhat levelled. With no team having any historical data to base their setups on, smooth running during all three-practice sessions will be required in order to ascertain what is required for qualifying and the race itself.
“After a challenging two weeks, we head to Qatar as we look to secure a positive result for the team and score the points that are on the table for us with the package we have,” McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl said.
“This week marks the first-ever Qatar GP in Formula 1’s history at the Losail International Circuit. Once again, it’s exciting to be racing in a new country and venue and being able to bring the sport to fans across the globe from a different territory.
“We return to the traditional race weekend format following sprint qualifying in Brazil. The additional free practice session will enable teams to optimise their planning and set-up, especially with there being no historical data on record. The track offers a mixture of medium and high-speed corners with one DRS zone on the main long straight, which hopefully will provide opportunities to overtake going into Turn One.”
While the track may play into McLaren’s favour, the Losail International Circuit normally plays host to the MotoGP. With the circuit containing multiple medium to high-speed corners, tyre degradation is expected to play a factor.
Coming in at 10th place at both the Mexican and Brazilian Grand Prix’s, Lando Norris is expecting to bounce back at Qatar.
A change in power unit saw the 22-year-old sent to the back of the grid in Mexico, while cutting across from the outside leading into Turn One in Brazil saw him clip former teammate Carlos Sainz, resulting in a tyre puncture.
Starting strongly during the first half of the season, Norris has missed out on those strong finishes since returning from the summer break. Other than Monza of course. However, while he still sits fifth in the drivers’ standings, both Charles Leclerc and Sainz are right on his heels.
“After a tough race in Brazil last week, I’m hoping we can bounce back as we head to Qatar for the first time in Formula 1 this weekend,” Norris said. “We’ve got one last race of this demanding triple-header before Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, so we’ll be pushing hard to try and end it on a high.
“I’ve been able to drive the Losail International Circuit on the simulator to get a feeling of what to expect this weekend. It’s a pretty fast and fun track with a few big braking zones which should make for a physical race. Being able to compete at new places is always a challenge, which is exciting for us as drivers as we have to adapt to something new and get up to speed as quickly as possible.”
The Qatar GP will be the first time drivers have raced under lights since the opening round of the 2021 F1 season in Bahrain.