Lando Norris says McLaren was “kind of expecting” to struggle in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, with its double-Q2 elimination being a “realistic” reflection of where the team stands right now.

Norris reached Q3 in both of the first two races of the year, but could only qualify 15th in China on Saturday, one place behind McLaren teammate Carlos Sainz Jr.

The result came following an impressive start to the season for the team, but Norris said the struggles were anticipated by the team, making the Q2 knockout unsurprising.

“As a team, with the car we have now, at this track, it’s just not as nice and it’s not performing as well as the past two weekends,” Norris said.

“I think we did very good, and now having more realistic results, because obviously it’s made to look a bit more disappointing, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary. We were kind of expecting it in a way.

“The other teams have done a better job or extracted more out of the car this weekend than what we’ve been able to. A bit annoying, but not the end of the world.”

The front-limited nature of the Shanghai International Circuit hit the weaknesses of McLaren’s MCL34 car, but Norris said it has been clear for some time where the team has to improve.

“There’s a lot of work to do in terms of getting the car better, but that’s obvious and has been since the beginning of the season,” Norris said.

“We’ve got a bit of work to do for tomorrow, but the race is always different, so we need to make sure we make the most of it.”

Sainz echoed his teammate’s thoughts, but said McLaren had made some setup adjustments to favour its race pace, boosting his hopes entering Sunday’s race.

“We knew before coming here that this track would expose our weaknesses a lot more than the other two tracks we’ve been to this season, so we expected to struggle a bit more,” Sainz said.

“After FP2 yesterday, I think everyone in the team was really encouraged by the pace, and I was very encouraged also. Today after Free Practice 3, we already saw that it was going to be a bit tougher than anticipated.

“We did a few changes in the setup from yesterday to today to try and improve the race pace. That maybe made us look slower today and stronger tomorrow.”

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