McLaren arrive in Qatar with Aston Martin firmly in their sights. Having started the 2023 Formula One season with just 17 points from 8 races, the Woking based team updated their car for the Austrian Grand Prix and it proved to be one of the most remarkable turnarounds in modern f1 history.
Since the race in Spielberg, McLaren have outscored Mercedes Ferrari and Aston Martin and are now just 49 points behind their Silverstone based rivals.
McLaren strongest team behind Red Bull
The Losail circuit in Qatar has fast flowing characteristics which suits the upgraded McLaren which last time out on a circuit which similarly tests the efficient aerodynamics of an F1 car claimed P2/P3 at the Japanese Grand Prix.
This closed the gap top Aston Martin by 29 points and so with 6 races remaining this season, there seems plenty of time for McLaren to overhaul the team fronted by Fernando Alonso.
Aston Martin are experiencing the reverse fortunes of McLaren. Alonso spearheaded a charge early in the season which saw him claim six podiums in the first six races.
The came the FIA dictate on flexible bodywork which appears to have scuppered Aston Martin’s fortunes. The team has scored a paltry 46 points in the seven F1 weekends since Silverstone and look susceptible to being hunted down by McLaren for fourth in the constructors’ title race.
Alonso suggests McLaren “overconfident”
In Qatar Fernando accepted McLaren have come on strongly but believes their belief that they can overtake his Assent Martin team is a demonstration of “overconfidence.”
“Every weekend we see ups and downs for everybody,” commented the Spaniard on Thursday in Qatar. “They were very strong before the August break – in Austria, in Silverstone.
“I think they were both [Norris and his team-mate Oscar Piastri] close to being on the podium in Silverstone and then in Zandvoort we were on the podium and they were struggling a little bit.
“So, it’s good if they are overconfident. Let’s see if we can beat them in Abu Dhabi [2023’s final race].”
Norris says Alonso math “deteriorating”
When told about Alonso’s opinion that McLaren were being overconfident, Lando Norris took exception with the veteran F1 driver’s comments.
“He says that we’re getting too confident? How many points did we catch last weekend [in Japan]? Quite a few,” Norris replied.
“Over 20, I think [it was 29]. So, unless his math is deteriorating, which it definitely isn’t… Fernando is just Fernando – he’s always going to say things.
“He always makes himself look very good or makes other people look bad. He’s very good at that,” quipped Norris.
F1 pecking order should remain
The teams collectively have brought few updates to their cars for the Qatar weekend and so there’s little reason to believe the current form guide will be interrupted.
Norris believes his team have their feet firmly on the ground and given their start to the season, McLaren are the last ones likely to get carried away in the moment.
“But I don’t think we’re overconfident in any way. I think we’re the last people who have ever been overconfident in saying anything. Especially myself.”
McLaren catching Aston Martin probable
When told of the points differential, Norris appeared surprised and responded:
“I thought we were a lot more points behind, so for us to be then 49 [back] with six races still to go [and] two cars performing well – they struggle at the minute to have two cars up there in Q3 [or] up there at the end of the race – then I would say it’s silly for him to think the opposite.”
Of course Fernando was speaking tongue in cheek when asked about McLaren something Norris realises is part of the Spaniard’s nature.
Ferrari hunting down Mercedes
“He’s a smart guy, he’s not silly in any way. So, I’m confident we can do it just because if we can have more P2s and P3s and things then, yeah, just of course it’s possible.”
Finishing the season I fourth is probably the best McLaren can now expect given their gap to Ferrari is 113 points with Mercedes another 20 ahead.
To catch Ferrari the papaya liveried cars need to outscore those in red livery by around a net 20 points per weekend, which appears highly unlikely. Ferrari themselves have Mercedes in their sights having closed the gap to the former world champions rapidly since their home race in Monza.
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