Lando Norris concedes he was frustrated to miss out on beating Max Verstappen to fourth place in qualifying by 0.009s for the French Grand Prix, and duly see his McLaren qualify ahead of both Red Bulls, as the team enjoyed its best qualifying result for almost three years.

The Formula 1 rookie qualified just nine-thousandths slower than Red Bull’s Verstappen in Q3 and was adamant he had the extra pace to jump ahead of the Dutch driver at Circuit Paul Ricard.

But with Norris in fifth and teammate Carlos Sainz in sixth, McLaren has enjoyed its best qualifying results since the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix when Jenson Button secured fifth place.

Both McLaren drivers were duly satisfied with qualifying and feel along with the circuit suiting the MCL34 package the team has also extracted optimum performance – albeit lacking just nine-thousandths of a second according to Norris.

“I’m happy to beat one of them [Red Bull], on pure pace. We beat a Ferrari but I don’t think that was pure pace,” Norris said. “To miss out on Verstappen by 0.009s was a bit annoying as there was the potential to go 0.009s quicker. A bit annoying but still happy to be here.”

“I think Renault has done a good step on the engine, and I think on this kind of tracks that step on the engine is helping a lot and we are enjoying when it comes to qualifying,” Sainz added. “Are we going to beat Red Bull tomorrow? That’s the main question. I struggle to think that, but we’re going to give it our best chance.

“Renault? I don’t know how far off they finished. In Canada they put a really perfect lap together and were 0.3s ahead. Today we probably put the balance right and were 0.3s-0.4s ahead.

“It shows getting everything spot on with the tyres, balance and the track just gives yout hat advantage and we probably got it right this weekend.”

Despite his frustrations at missing out in qualifying to Verstappen, Norris remains optimistic he can maintain a fight in the race thanks to its Renault power unit and McLaren chassis upgrades.

“I think our pace is obviously pretty good,” he said. “I think the Ferraris are quicker, Mercedes are quicker, Red Bulls are looking like we could fight them. You never know.

“Other people crashing, which we’ll hope for, but even getting good points. If we can race the Red Bulls and be around them, fifth onwards, I think we can be happy.”

 

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