Mystery debris not to blame for Norris' French GP struggles

Lando Norris admits that he didn’t have the pace to fight Fernando Alonso in the Formula 1 French Grand Prix as he dropped from fifth on the grid to seventh at the flag.

Mystery debris not to blame for Norris' French GP struggles

However, the mystery piece of debris that the Englishman retrieved from the right sidepod of his McLaren MCL36 in parc ferme was not to blame.

TV pictures showed Norris noticing the stray aero part after alighting from his car, before examining it and placing it in the cockpit.

His McLaren team has confirmed to Autosport that the part was picked up in the closing stages and had no impact on Norris’s race.

Norris had done a great job to qualify fifth with the upgraded car, but after a bad start he lost out to both George Russell and Alonso. He gained a place when Charles Leclerc crashed, but later lost out to Carlos Sainz.

"I just had a little bit of wheelspin,"  he said when asked by Autosport about his getaway.

"But I don't think it changed our race in any way, Fernando still would have passed me.

“I think we achieved everything we should have done, could have done, today. Frustrating because I guess after yesterday our hopes were just pushed up a little bit. 

"I think it was more because I just did a very, very good lap, to be in the middle of Mercedes, and they showed they can almost race for a win."

Norris admitted that McLaren is currently stronger in qualifying trim than over long runs.

“It shows the differences between people's pace and in quali and races. And for whatever reason, we maybe show a bit more pace in quali. 

"The new tyres, low fuel hides a lot of our issues and problems, and as soon as we get into high fuel, old tyres, just all those issues are exposed, and we're just quite slow.

“It definitely goes away the balance we have, the balance which is giving us good lap time and qualifying. I lose a few of those things. And that's why we struggle more in the race with the front end through the apexes, and stuff like that.

“We did make some improvements since Friday in understanding the package, it just seems as a general package it loses a bit of performance come Sunday."

Lando Norris, McLaren

Lando Norris, McLaren

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Norris acknowledged that qualifying pace can be handy at places like the next venue in Hungary, but said he would prefer to have speed on Sundays.

"Yeah, it's true at certain tracks, but a lot of tracks you still want a good race car. You need a good package. You need one that's good in qualifying and good in the race. Because even though I was ahead of George yesterday [Saturday], he still finished on the podium.

“So you probably still prefer a good race car over a quali car throughout the season. And it's just not we have at the minute. We'll still look into all the updates and upgrades and see what we did. 

"I think a lot of them were still positive, I think we would have been even slower today, and an even worse position yesterday [Saturday], if we didn't have the updates, so I think it was a lot of positives and we moved forward.

“Just Alpine are and have been all season much quicker than us. They've just made a lot more mistakes all season, and we've done a very good job with a lot of things to be ahead. So now being behind them it's just more realistic, and where we deserve to be with the car."

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Norris admitted that the Paul Ricard race hadn’t been easy, especially with his personal choice not to use a drinks bottle.

"Tricky, a little bit windy. Especially the long right where Charles crashed, a gust of wind which seemed to just throw the car out sometimes. And just hot temperatures. So managing the tyres was very difficult.

“Especially knowing if you want to do a one-stop to get right to the end with a good pace, you needed to protect a lot in the beginning, to give yourself confidence you're going to make it to the end.

“So tough, and even physically, you know, I still don't use a water bottle inside, it makes me feel too sick. So I can't use it so. I just can't do too many fluids when I drive, I just barf it back up. So that's why I avoid it."

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