until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

The puzzle Norris put together for ‘very special’ lap

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Lando Norris described McLaren’s Formula 1 car as a “puzzle you have to work out how to piece together” after an Abu Dhabi qualifying lap his team called “very special”.

Norris will start the season finale third on the grid after jumping the second cars from Red Bull and Mercedes in the last qualifying session of the season.

His first lap, a 1m23.392s, was a decent run with a very good first sector but had a little lock of the brakes at Turn 6. That meant he was only eighth, behind Perez, Bottas, the two Ferraris and even AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

But Tsunoda lost his lap – which put him an excellent provisional third on the grid – so that promoted Norris to seventh in the order, although he was still almost four tenths adrift of Perez who had inherited third.

McLaren didn’t expect where Norris would end up. “But it seems like, similar to what we have seen last year, it’s definitely a track that Lando likes a lot,” said team boss Andreas Seidl.

“He pulled off this great quali lap also at the very end last year so I definitely think that Lando delivered something very special today on this last lap in Q3, which gave us the edge then against the usual suspects we’re fighting with.”

But Norris is very well in-tune with this McLaren, its limitations and its idiosyncrasies – especially in qualifying trim.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Qualifying Day Abu Dhabi, Uae

“The thing is our car always comes alive a little bit into qualifying and I gain that confidence,” Norris says.

“Our car is like a jigsaw and it’s piecing it all together, how to drive every corner because it’s so difficult to put it together.

“You have to drive our car in quite a specific way so understanding it, trying to figure this out, it’s all part of when you get to Q3 how can you put it all together to then put the lap together.”

Norris was very happy with his second run, which he felt only had one mistake – too much eagerness out of the final corner at the end of the lap.

It started well as, unlike the first run, there was no small slide on the exit of Turn 1 which gave him a little more momentum all the way down to the reprofiled Turn 5 hairpin.

After the small Turn 6 lock-up on the first run “I had to back that off a little bit” on the second, and that approach underpinned Norris’s entire lap – smooth, under control, minimal fuss.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Qualifying Day Abu Dhabi, Uae

He picked up more time through Turn 9 and with a tidier run in the final sector – where on the first run he had the small distraction of Perez’s slow-moving Red Bull – he made a big step, improving just over four tenths against his previous best to steal third.

“One thing that can make a lap is just how clean it was,” says Norris.

“Apart from the last corner, it was just a very clean lap. I always hit the right apexes, my braking points were on point and everything like that.

“It was just a very honest and clean lap, as well as being quick. But I think a lot of people probably out there just made some mistakes here or there which maybe cost three or four hundredths, whatever it could be. It can be very small.

“I don’t feel like I did that, I feel like I put it all together and that’s what made the difference.”

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