McLaren rarely show their hand during Friday practice – but Lando Norris believes both his team and Ferrari were on the back foot more than normal on the opening day in Budapest.
Norris was ninth fastest in FP2 behind both Alpine drivers as well as Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel, but led the two Ferraris and his team mate Daniel Ricciardo. In high temperatures, the Briton admits the car was tricky to drive but it was the way it stacked up compared to other teams that caught his eye.
“It’s not very nice,” Norris said. “I think it’s not bad – I’m still lucky I’m driving a Formula 1 car – but when you’re into that you want to feel comfortable, you want to really push on the car and in these kind of conditions you can’t really do that too much.
“So it doesn’t feel too good, but we’re still there or thereabouts comparing to the competitors – it’s not like we’re a long way off the pace. We have some things to work on, some things to focus on, and we’ll try again tomorrow.
“I reckon it’s been one of our tougher FP2s. We’re not amazing normally in FP2 but we never struggle quite as much as this, the gap to Alpine was pretty big. So I think getting into Q3 is the main one, particularly as it’s a very qualifying-dominated track. Tomorrow’s the big day, so we’ll put all of our eggs into it right now.
“Alpine were very fast today, AlphaTauri were very fast today. Ferrari were maybe a little bit slower than we were expecting – I thought they’d be very fast here – so I don’t know. Even we were expecting to be a bit better.
“The conditions are very different to what they were last year, it was much colder last year, the tarmac was still a bit fresher and newer. It changes, it’s never the same, and we’ll sit down tonight and try to understand why and try to make some improvements because of that.”
For Norris the biggest challenge is working out where to focus overnight with a potential change in conditions on Saturday but no clear area of weakness to work on.
Tomorrow’s the big day, so we’ll put all of our eggs into it right now.
“I mean we’ll see what the weather does. Honestly the weather could play a little bit of a part on Saturday and Sunday as well, whether it’s going to rain or just be cloudier because that can change quite a few things.
“It’s not simple. The car’s on the limit both front and rear, so it’s like ‘which one do you really want to focus on?’. So I’ll sit down with my guys and girls and we’ll go through our homework and see where we can find that last bit of lap time. Like I said, we’re there or thereabouts, we’ve just got a little bit of homework.”
It was a similar story for Ricciardo, who ended FP2 in 13th place, 0.4s behind his team mate.
“The afternoon was a little bit better than the morning which was not particularly good,” Ricciardo said. “We were struggling quite a lot. I would say that we made a step in the afternoon but in the morning we were two or three steps away, so we definitely still have to find at least one more step overnight if we want to be in a solid position tomorrow.
“The track temperature is the big one, it is making it difficult for all of us. It was like 60°C today is maybe a track temperature record. That is stressing the tires a lot and making the car not feel particularly good. Nonetheless we still have to find a bit for tomorrow.
“We will analyse it tonight. I was not particularly strong today but as far as upgrades go I did a bit of testing this morning. It was quite hard to tell but I would say that a couple of them were more data driven, so we will see what they say tonight.
“Today was the hottest day of the weekend. If it is not wet it is probably going to be cooler the next day or two, so hopefully that allows the track to come to us and put us in the fight tomorrow.”