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Norris: Australia layout the main factor behind improving McLaren F1 form

Lando Norris believes the Australian Grand Prix's circuit layout is the main reason why McLaren has completed its best qualifying session so far of the 2024 Formula 1 season.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri qualified fourth and sixth respectively, but both will move up a spot after a three-place grid penalty for third-fastest Sergio Perez.
While Piastri couldn't wring an optimal lap out of his MCL38 in Q3, Norris' four-tenth gap to Red Bull''s polesitter Max Verstappen is the smallest it has been this year, while he was only a tenth and a half slower than Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari.
Norris explained that while McLaren tidied up certain areas of its performance, it was Albert Park's circuit layout that made most of the difference, with McLaren punished less severely for its lower top speed or slow corner vulnerabilities.
"We've improved in a couple of small areas and maximised ourselves, but it's just a slightly different circuit layout that potentially played into our favour. Nothing more than that," he said.
"I'm sure if we went back to Saudi Arabia we're not going to really do any differently to what we did. It's a different track layout, different tarmac, just different weekend.
"It's clear from today that we've been a little bit ahead of our main competitors."
Team principal Andrea Stella added that Albert Park reveals the same weaknesses McLaren has always had, but due to the nature of its fast and flowing layout, cars spend less time in the corner types that suit the MCL38 the least.
Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

In addition, Australia's DRS zones are much shorter than Jeddah's, which doesn't punish McLaren's less efficient system as much.
"When we look carefully at the overlays with some other cars, we actually recognise the same strengths and weaknesses that we have observed in the first two races," Stella explained.
"In relatively long corners, like corner three, or the penultimate and the last corner, we lost time, like we were losing time in Saudi in the similar long corners. Likewise, we lose a bit of time in DRS straights.
"But here the DRS straights are slightly shorter than they are in Saudi, so the track characteristics mean that the time we spend in these weak areas is shorter here and therefore we are more competitive.
"There are a few more high-speed corners than the first two circuits for sure. I think it is completely track layout dependent."
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Red Bull and Ferrari are a clear first and second in the pecking order, while behind McLaren is still trading blows with Mercedes from weekend to weekend, a battle which has swung in the Woking team's favour this weekend.
"It feels like every session you go into it the moment, everyone is very mixed up," Piastri pointed out.
"Some sessions Mercedes look very quick, some sessions Aston look very quick, some we look very quick.
"I guess this weekend we've been a bit of a step in front of Mercedes and Aston, which has been good. I do feel like we've made some progress this week."

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