Grand prix

Who will win P3 battle? Why McLaren fears Ferrari has moved ahead

A run of strong performances since the summer break have enabled Ferrari to claw back the deficit to McLaren and close to within just 3.5 points of its main rival, which currently holds P3 in the championship heading into the final five races. 

Ferrari once again outperformed McLaren at the United States Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc claimed fourth, finishing more than 20 seconds ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while Norris could only take P8 behind Carlos Sainz

“It’s definitely just tipped them in that direction for sure,” Norris conceded after the race in Austin. “Coming into this weekend, we weren’t expecting it to be a great one for us, anyway. 

“I don’t think we can be too disappointed but just how the weekend played out. FP1, FP2 and FP3, we were quite good compared to Ferrari but maybe they were just saving or whatever, they took a little away from us in quali. 

“They definitely have the edge at the moment, they have the car, not quicker in every place, but a car that is more consistent than us, more driveable. 

“For us, it was so difficult with the wind and so on, so easy to make mistakes and that’s where there’s looked much nicer. 

“It’s definitely tipped in the way of Ferrari but it’s not changed the way we will try to keep pushing to stay ahead.” 

While McLaren has achieved the headline-grabbing results this year by claiming a 1-2 finish at Monza along with three further podium appearances amid a consistent season, Ferrari has been more competitive in recent races. 

Ferrari has also tended to hold the upper hand in qualifying trim, with Leclerc scoring back-to-back poles in Monaco and Baku, though Norris did manage to secure a first career pole in Russia. 

An additional performance boost has been gained through Ferrari’s introduction of an upgraded engine that was fitted to Leclerc and Sainz’s cars at Sochi and Istanbul respectively.

“I don’t think we were ever clearly ahead, I don’t believe that,” Norris added. “There were races that we were ahead and sometimes it was by half a second or so. 

“I think a mixture of last weekend in Turkey they were nine-tenths ahead in qualifying, so there’s a lot of places that they’re a lot quicker than us and have been all season. 

“They’ve had a lot more pole positions than us. They’ve probably had a quick car for the majority of the season but in the races, we’ve done better in. 

“Here [in Austin], we just struggled in the race with the temperatures and so on. With their few upgrades and engine and things, it’s definitely helped them make their little step to help them be ahead of us. 

“A tough one because it’s not what we want so late in the season. We’ve got to try and do something more to get ahead of them.” 

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl felt splitting the Ferraris was the “maximum” it could achieve in the United States and conceded “we have to accept that Ferrari was clearly better” at the Circuit of the Americas. 

Asked if he is worried about Ferrari’s advantage in Austin, Seidl replied: “I’m never worried because being worried doesn’t help you. 

“It’s a reality, they’ve made a good step forward with their package and probably also down to the upgrade they introduced on the power unit side. That gave them a good advantage, especially in these last two races, compared to us. 

“So that is the reality we are in. But at the same time it is simply important to focus on ourselves.” 

Despite Ferrari’s resurgence, Seidl is confident McLaren can take the fight against Ferrari all the way down to the wire in Abu Dhabi as it seeks to record a top-three finish for the second successive season. 

“We know there are no more upgrades coming anymore on the car side, power unit side for our package,” Seidl explained. 

“We know there are tracks coming that will probably play a bit more to the strengths of our car, but there is tracks coming at the end of the season where we will struggle compared to Ferrari. 

“So it’s simply important that we extract each weekend the maximum from the package as it is with clean races and then hopefully that’s enough to battle them until the last lap in Abu Dhabi.” 

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