When F1 last raced at Paul Ricard, it marked only Lando’s third points score in the sport – just a handful of races into his rookie season. Fast forward into this season, the young British driver arrives at Le Castellet as the only driver to have scored points in every race so far this season, will he be able to maintain this record?
During today’s qualification session, which also saw Norris suffering a car issue during Q2, the 22-year-old didn’t manage a great lap but “I don’t think we could have done a lot better”, says Norris.
Tough day with P8, but I want more tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/kinq3mHysR— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) June 19, 2021
“It is a little bit frustrating but it is at it is. There were some mistakes from my side, especially in Q2 but I managed to get a little bit better in Q3”.
Coming into the weekend, Daniel Ricciardo described himself as “extremely excited” for the first triple-header of the season, starting off in France and continuing with two races in Austria in the upcoming weekends. The Honey Badger was hoping for these next three races to help him better understand the MCL35M and "fast-track" his progress.
“Being able to consecutively put more miles in over the next three weekends combined with the work we’ve done in the simulator will hopefully get us to a good place and continue to build my confidence in the car”, said the Australian.
“Racing is not like tennis when you can play Monday to Friday, you know. I think for every driver the more driving and the more time you spend on the track, the better”.
However, today’s qualifying session was not particularly satisfactory, with the 31-year-old starting tenth on the grid, a tenth behind his teammate.
“It was decent I think”, commented the Australian. “However, we didn’t really leave a lot on the table, we simply lacked those extra few tenths to get more up there on the grid”.
“[But] the competition is so tight and everyone is driving very well so we just need to try extract a bit more speed for tomorrow. But I think this was more or less representative of our pace this afternoon”.
The aftermath of the two huge high-speed crashes involving Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll during the Azerbaijan GP has turned into a complex blame game and it is not expected to stop anytime soon. Teams are very critical against the official tyre manufacturer, with McLaren urging both Pirelli and the FIA to be more transparent, especially when it comes to safety-related issues.
Norris and Ricciardo were asked about the drivers’ meeting with Pirelli, which reportedly lasted more than one hour yesterday. They were giggling and claimed they “cannot disclose everything that was discussed, yet it was a fairly productive conversation”, said Ricciardo.
“We had a lot of questions and we got our fair bits of explanations”, said the Australian.
"I was definitely more comfortable leaving the meeting than coming into it. In the past, we have had meetings where there was a clear lack of clarity, but yesterday I think we left the meeting with a better understanding," continued the 31-year-old, "yet, I must be honest, I don't completely understand all the technology involved in tyres but I was definitely more at ease after our chat last night".
Track temperature is always a key factor in getting the best out of the tyres at Le Castellet and with what happened in Baku, it will be even more important for teams to carefully choose their strategy.
“I think if we see temperatures like yesterday, we might get a bit of tyre degradation and overheat, potentially a bit of blistering too,” commented Ricciardo.
“However, I’ve heard it might be stormy tomorrow so hopefully we shouldn’t have the same high temperatures as yesterday’s. Moreover, our car generally does pretty well when it comes to tyre management”.
Norris added: “The weather shouldn’t be as bad as yesterday in terms of temperature and should it be rainy, then we’ll try to maximise the opportunity…we’ll see what we get”.
Lastly, the drivers were questioned about their expectations when comparing with Ferrari. Indeed, over the last two street-circuit races, the Maranello-based team was able to get some great qualification laps and they were decently good in race pace as well.
“The past two weekends they were very fast because they have a very good car”, said Norris.
“I think a lot of people underestimated them and I don’t know why. They are very fast in the corners and decently fast in the straights. So we didn’t come into this weekend expecting to be miles ahead of them,”
“People didn’t expect a lot from them, but they’re Ferrari and they made a lot of improvements compared to last season. They have one of the best cars in slow-speed corners, and especially in qualifying they’re extremely good,
“We were probably expecting to be a little closer to them, but their performance is definitely not a surprise from our side,” concluded Norris.