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McLaren throw down gauntlet to Red Bull after Suzuka qualifying

Norris and Piastri hoping to take advantage of MCL60's pace in Japan

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McLaren aims to take the fight to Max Verstappen at Suzuka, with both drivers buoyed after a competitive qualifying session.

Oscar Piastri was the fastest of the McLaren drivers on Saturday (Image Credit: @McLarenF1 on X)

The team emerged as the closest challenger to Red Bull in Japan, with Lando Norris finishing third in both free practice sessions on Friday. This form continued into Saturday, as Norris improved to second, joined by teammate Oscar Piastri.

Both drivers replicated their practice pace in qualifying. Once the first Q3 laps were complete, Piastri emerged as the lead McLaren. He secured his first Grand Prix front row start, half a second behind polesitter Max Verstappen. Losing time on the second flying laps, Piastri and Norris could not improve but remained P2 and P3.

The gap between the McLarens was tight, with Piastri lining up just 0.35s ahead of Norris. After equalling the team’s best qualifying of the year, McLaren hopes for a strong performance in the race.

Ambitious race target

Speaking after qualifying to, Piastri revealed he had more pace on his final lap: “Yeah, the first lap was pretty solid, I was quite happy with it. The last chicane I could have done a better job, but it was a good lap. And then the second lap, my first sector was good and the next two sectors not so good.

Piastri then revealed his ambitious target of overtaking Verstappen at the start of the race:

“Happy to end it in P2, it’s been a really good weekend for the team so far. We’ve got upgrades on the car, and they are quick. [I] thought we might have a decent chance around here, but still got to make it happen. Happy to be second, and for the team to be second and third – very, very happy.

Yeah. First time I’ve started on the front row for a while. It will be cool, there’s only one car ahead to overtake so I’ll try and make that happen.”

Norris was equally delighted with his performance and highlighted the devastating results of a minor mistake can have at Suzuka: “It’s been a very good day for us, as a team, a P2 and a P3. A great job by Oscar today and as usual by Max. But a good day for us, to be P2 and P3. I was pretty happy with my laps.”

“Tricky, not an easy circuit to put everything together always. But it’s so quick around here, the smallest mistake and it can make a big amount of lap time. I’m happy. It’s a good day but good positions for tomorrow.”

The Briton stated his aim of continuing McLaren’s legacy at Suzuka, where titles have been won throughout history. However, he concedes that the form of Max Verstappen is likely to prevent this: “Some of the most amazing McLaren stories come here in Japan,” said Norris. “We are of course hoping for a good result tomorrow. We want to continue that tradition, but it’s going to be difficult.

“Max is doing a very good job. Red Bull is doing a very good job. We will do our best to make their life difficult and have a good race tomorrow.”


Feature Image Credit: @McLarenF1 on X

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