Norris fears qualifying confirmed McLaren behind AlphaTauri and Ferrari

Lando Norris fears qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix was “confirmation” McLaren is lagging behind AlphaTauri and Ferrari at the start of the new Formula 1 season.

After setting the third-fastest time in Friday practice, Norris warned his pace was not a true reflection of where McLaren stood in the pecking order and that “the obvious four cars” would be at the front in qualifying in reference to Mercedes and Red Bull.

Whilst Max Verstappen and Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas qualified ahead of Norris and new McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who will start seventh and sixth respectively, Sergio Perez could only manage 11th.

Impressive performances from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly in his AlphaTauri, however, saw the pair steal in ahead of McLaren to seal top-five grid positions.

The pace of the two teams was not a surprise to Norris who said: “I think they have been very quick in all the pre-season testing and I think from today the speed of the AlphaTauri looked pretty impressive.

“From the first lap we did in Q1 they were P2 and P6 and quite a long way quicker than us and we both had to go out and do another run. Not a surprise.

“I think they have looked very good and so has Ferrari. They’ve looked strong so it wasn’t a surprise but I think today was just more of a confirmation that they definitely seemed that bit ahead of us and that bit quicker.

“Hopefully we can turn that around tomorrow on race pace. That is why we’re happy to be where we are on the grid and ahead of one Ferrari and one AlphaTauri considering the speed that they had.”

Ricciardo, meanwhile, believes the mixed-up grid will be replicated at many races this year with fine margins separating the midfield teams.

“It is so close that group behind Mercedes and Red Bull and I think this is going to be a trend probably for, I don’t know, it could be all season,” said Ricciardo.

“But certainly for the first few races, I think it is going to be separated by probably just who puts a better lap together and that could separate three or four teams.”

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