The McLaren team is starting the Italian GP off strong with both drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo starting the sprint race in the top five. Ricciardo will start 5th while Norris will start 4th right behind Red Bull driver Max Verstappen. The Aussie driver stated that overall he is happy with the team after the qualifying session for the sprint race. He praised his team for having a great performance not only with the car but also with strategy as they ensured Ricciardo was never put in a tricky situation fighting for tack position during qualifying especially at the Monza track which is notorious for having major traffic issues that can make or break a qualifying session for any driver. Ricciardo also expressed some frustration as his final qualifying time was 1:19.995 and just shy of beating his British teammate’s time at 1:19.989.
“From a general standpoint, I’m happy. We were fast and were fighting for top three on the grid, so I’m happy we had the potential to do that. But I’m so frustrated that we got that close but not quite close enough. It was more of a tease than anything, but it’s all good.
“I think the team performance was great. We didn’t put ourselves in a difficult situation with any of the out-laps and I was in the right places in terms of track position, we had good tows. My only frustration is that it’s so close and, unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the milliseconds. It is what it is and I’m now looking forward to the racing.”
Ricciardo has not had the easiest and smoothest time making the transition from the Renault team last season to the McLaren team this season. Therefore the Aussie driver wasn't shy about sharing his bitter-sweet emotions after delivering a solid qualifying result.
“Honestly when you see like, what, two-hundredths from third or something like that? Yes, it’s so small, that’s just frustrating, that’s all. That’s all I can say, it’s just frustrating, so, tomorrow will be fun,”
“I don’t know, I’ve come into this weekend with certainly some internal emotions, positive ones, and yes, today certainly didn’t help those, if you know what I mean. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow and Sunday and it’s probably what I need, it’s a blessing in disguise, and I just want to race now.”
When Ricciardo was asked to clarify his statement he added:
“I’m just hungry. I’m hungry. I want it. I’m just... I’m ready to go. Just for me, just to go and have some fun.
Ricciardo stayed optimistic and focused on the positive outcome of the qualifying session. He also added:
“But we’re in a good spot, I mean it was obviously a great qualifying for us, but when you’re so close it’s just more painful I guess.”
On the flip side, Lando Norris was optimistic and satisfied with his result for the qualifying sprint race session but there is still some room for improvement. Norris also believes that the McLaren team is off to a "good " start for the rest of Italian GP weekend.
"I'm satisfied with today – we’re back in a much better position after last weekend, and we seem much more competitive. I think it’s the perfect start to the weekend. There was a possibility of being P3 if I'd put the lap completely together – but one small mistake, I think, cost us. It's a bit of a shame that I missed out on it, but fourth still puts us in a very good position compared to the people we’re really racing against and battling with this weekend and for the Championship. I'm happy – and it's a good way to bounce back after last week."
Norris is also taking a more practical approach going into the Sprint race and feels that he has the opportunity and car to challenge Red Bull drivers Sergio Perez and possibly Max Verstappen but they don't have the pace to fight the Mercedes cars.
“I think we just need to stay where we are. If we can have an opportunity to maybe overtake Max, because I think we’re maybe a bit closer to him. The Mercedes are a long way up the road so I don’t think we’re going to be really racing them; we could have a chance against the Red Bulls you know, we’re ahead of Perez and almost at Max.
So far this season Norris has been able to put down some impressive qualifying times, including the almost pole at Spa before he crashed under the hazardous rain conditions which ultimately put an end to the qualifying session. The twenty-one-year-old driver came up just a little short once again missing out on the top three with a fourth position start but ultimately he was happy with his result for the second sprint qualifying race of the season.
“Just to find that little bit of time would have been nice, whatever it was, half a tenth to Max or less than that – half of half a tenth, quarter of a tenth – just that would have been that extra bit lovely but I’m happy with fourth, it’s a good position for tomorrow,”
McLaren Racing director Andrea Stella looked on the bright side of the qualifying sprint race session saying it has allowed the team to see where they stand all weekend and ultimately they are very competitive. After a disappointing race at Zandvoort for the team, Stella is looking forward to the possibility of being able to bounce back for the Italian GP.
“One aspect of the Sprint Qualifying format is that it allows us to see where we are much earlier in the weekend. Today, we found out that we’re competitive at this track, and expect it to be better for our car than Zandvoort was. We had a difficult event last weekend, so it’s encouraging that we could bounce back immediately and put ourselves in a good position to score well here at Monza. There’s a lot to do before that, with Sprint Qualifying tomorrow following a final practice session. We need to keep working hard, keep thinking and optimise all of the variables still within our control to ensure we can maximise our opportunity.”