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McLaren explains gaps between F1 qualifying and race pace

McLaren explains gaps between F1 qualifying and race pace

As its 2021 midfield rival Ferrari competes for wins again, McLaren has set a step backwards in 2022, heading into the summer break in fifth position in the constructors’ championship behind Alpine.

The Enstone squad, with which McLaren is now also involved in an off-track tussle over Oscar Piastri’s services, has generally had the measure of its Woking rivals across F1 2022’s first batch of 13 grands prix.

But as McLaren is struggling to keep up with Alpine and F1’s three top teams over a race distance, the team’s leading driver Lando Norris has qualifying particularly well in recent races.

Norris qualified fourth in Hungary, three tenths ahead of both Alpine cars, following a fifth place start in France and P6 on the grid in Britain, beating one of the Mercedes cars on both occasions.

When asked why McLaren manages to perform strongly in qualifying only to fall back during the race, Seidl explained qualifying can mask some of the car’s deficits as it manages to extract the most from the Pirelli tyres over one lap.

“I think in general if we compare our competitiveness in quali compared to the race, I guess in quali the deficits our car in the end still has to these top three cars. I would say mainly on the downforce side, obviously, you can mask quite a lot with the grip tyres are having on one lap in qualifying,” he explained.

“But then over the race distance the lack of performance or downforce is obviously eating into the tyres. And I guess that’s why you then see the bigger gap over the race distance.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

McLaren trails Alpine by just four points going into the summer break, largely thanks to Norris’ 76-point haul which sees the young Briton seventh and best of the rest in the drivers’ championship.

Seidl said McLaren’s recent upgrades have helped keep it in the fight for P4, although he acknowledged the three top teams are still miles away even if McLaren can occasionally beat a Mercedes in qualifying.

“In terms of race pace, I guess compared to Alpine for example, we were in good position [in Hungary]. Definitely in a better position compared to the previous weekend in [France],” he added.

“I think thanks to the upgrade that we brought to France, which we further optimised for here in terms of usage, thanks to the work the team has also put in in terms of learning from what we have seen in Paul Ricard, I guess we made a good step forward here.

“Now it’s simply important to keep going and keep further improving the car because when you see the lap time difference, which is still there also in qualifying, it is clear that [the top teams] simply have a much stronger car.”

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