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Formula 1 Hungarian GP

McLaren still anticipating low-speed struggle despite Hungary F1 qualifying result

Lando Norris still expects McLaren's MCL60 Formula 1 car to struggle in low-speed conditions over the remainder of 2023, despite the team's pace in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

After his performance at Silverstone where he successfully converted his front-row start into a second-place finish, Norris anticipated a much harder time at the Hungaroring circuit, noting after the British Grand Prix that the McLaren's performance in low-speed corners was still "poor".

McLaren nonetheless impressed in qualifying in Hungary, locking out the second row of the grid as Norris missed out on pole by 0.085s and Oscar Piastri claimed fourth on the grid.

Although Norris admitted to some surprise in his qualifying rewards, he suggested that the Hungaroring is closer to a medium-speed circuit layout, despite its reputation as a downforce-heavy venue.

He noted that the McLaren may struggle in select corners over the rest of the season, feeling that La Source was a likely spot that would sap time from the team's competitive laps.

"I think the thing is that everyone says Budapest is a slow-speed circuit. But really I’d say it's a lot closer to medium speed. You never even use second gear around the whole circuit," Norris suggested.

"The slower speed is where we struggle. so where we’re the worst is in the chicane, Turn 1, and Turn 12. That’s where we lose a lot of our time, but definitely close, to be only eight hundredths off pole position.

"I think it's still clear that we’ve got some weaknesses and those weaknesses are going to show in certain places, even in Spa we're going to struggle in certain places even more, like Turn 1.

"I'm already scared of Turn 1 in Spa. But yeah, there's many other things which are obviously very positive and if we're still here and under a tenth off pole position.

"I'm happy, the team are doing a great job. I'm very proud of the progress we’ve made. I guess I'm surprised to be in P3, but a good surprise, especially with Oscar in P4."

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, arrives in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, arrives in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella supported Norris' claims that the Hungaroring was dominated by medium-speed corners and, although GPS traces show McLaren was among the slowest in the low-speed areas of the circuit, it had balanced that with its aptitude in the higher-speed areas of the course.

He added that the recent upgrades had brought medium-speed performance to the car, but that McLaren did not want to shift the balance to change how the car delivers added downforce.

"Here in Hungary, even though we say it's low-speed stuff, there's also a lot of medium speed and it's actually a track dominated by medium speed," explained Stella.

"There's possibly more medium speed corners than any other truck. And then you have high speed as well - Turn 4, Turn 11, they are more than 230km/h (142mph) in qualifying.

"It's actually an interesting test for any car because you can see where you are competitive. And for instance, for us looking at the GPS overlays, we see that we are strong in the medium and high speed because Sector 2 confirms that we are possibly one of the quickest cars - but we still lose time in low speed, like Turn 1, Turn 12.

"In terms of understanding the picture, it's clear that thanks to the development, in addition to the high speed competitiveness, we have added now the medium speed territory in which we seem to be competitive.

"There still work to do on low speed. The reason why you don't change the balance is because the upgrades delivered front and rear downwards in a balanced way.

"Ultimately you have more grip, but you don't alter the way grip comes to you. In the middle of the corner, you would like to have a bit more front end, a bit more rear end in braking and in traction.

"We haven't really achieved that. We just increased the grip by the same quantity on the front and rear axle throughout the corner so we go quicker. But the balance is similar."

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