European Formula 3 champion Lando Norris has attributed his lack of pace in the Macau Grand Prix qualification race to tyre problems.
The McLaren Formula 1 reserve driver reached fifth position after recovering from a poor start, before he slumped to seventh in the closing laps.
Both Carlin driver Norris, who started from the front row, and poleman Joel Eriksson opted for a low-downforce set-up for the race.
Each of them struggled for pace in the closing laps – while race winner Callum Ilott lapped in the low 2m13s, second-place finisher Eriksson dropped to the high 2m14s and 2m15s, while Norris even logged a 2m16s.
“It was just tyres,” Norris told Motorsport.com. “The pace was good in the beginning – probably too good – and then it dropped off massively from the middle to the end.
“I think it was the low downforce – it affected me more than we anticipated.
“Callum was on medium downforce and you could see from his move on Joel that he could go round the last two corners so much better that it [the deficit on straight-line speed] didn’t really matter.
“We’ve got to go through the data and move more towards that [set-up].”
Eriksson ascribed his drop-off in pace to the same thing.
“I think it was only me and Lando who had low downforce, and both him and me were struggling a bit," he explained.
“My start was really good so I was quite relaxed in the lead, but directly I could feel the rears were going to go away too quick and I was just having to manage them.
“Also there was something on the mechanical side that was not in the right direction, so second is good in those circumstances. We have some work to do for tomorrow.”
Norris also explained his poor start, which was down to a clutch problem.
“For the first time all year I’ve got an excuse!” said Norris, who made a series of woeful starts in the first half of the Euro F3 season.
“I think it might have got too hot or something, but luckily I had enough momentum that it continued to go.
“Then when Maxi [Gunther] passed me [into Reservoir] I had nowhere to go but out of the tow, so everyone else’s slipstream amplified the effect of me having no tow and the clutch problems.”