It’s an all-new line-up of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz for McLaren after the departure of Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso from Woking.
Like last year, the team has customer engines from Renault but have made some internal changes to get the right pieces in the right place. Pre-season testing looked promising but the team didn’t want to set goals. With experienced Sainz and rookie Norris, expectations were positive.
Australia. A sluggish start to the season as Sainz didn’t make it out of Q1 on Saturday and qualified 18th while Norris could put together a few great laps to qualify in 8th. The Sunday wasn’t what the team hoped for either as Sainz had to retire after 9 laps with a power unit issue. Norris couldn’t hold on to his top 10 qualifying spot and finished outside the top 10 in 12th position.
Bahrain. Second race of the season started out great on Saturday after both drivers made it into Q3. Norris qualified in 10th while Sainz did slightly better in 7th. Sunday and another bad race for Sainz as he had to retire again. This time with a gearbox issue. Meanwhile, Norris battled his way up to finish 6th.
China. On Saturday, both drivers made it into Q2 but couldn’t really make a fist as Sainz qualified in 14th with Norris behind him in 15th. No points on Sunday as this time, it was Norris who had to retire after sustaining collision damage. Sainz didn’t make progress on his starting position and ended up 14th at the finish.
Baku. A great Saturday with both drivers inside the top 10. Norris qualified 7th while Sainz wasn’t far off in 10th. Sunday and the team is very happy as they scored a double points finish with Sainz in 7th and Norris in 8th. Things seem to be turning around for the team.
Spain. Updates for almost every team but it didn’t help on Saturday as both Sainz and Norris got stuck in Q2. Sainz would line up 13th on the grid with Norris in front of him in 11th. On Sunday, there were points for the team but just for one car. Norris collided with Stroll and retired while Sainz made his way up to finish 8th.
Monaco. Signs of progress were there on Saturday but couldn’t quite get out on track during qualifying. Norris missed out on Q3 and had to start from 12th while Sainz did manage to reach Q3 but couldn’t push further up than 9th. The Sunday was an okay day for the team and although Norris just missed out on a points finish by crossing the finish line in 11th, it was Sainz who had a stellar race to come home in 6th position.
After six races what was the state of play?
Not sure if McLaren is punching above their weight but they are 4th in the constructors’ championship with 30 points. Norris is a revelation with some great racekraft but the experience of Sainz is pushing the team forward. They still have some mechanical issues but after Baku, it seems the tables are turning for the team. Looking forward to what’s next.
Canada. A great start to on Saturday when both drivers made Q3. Sainz qualified 9th while Norris was the faster one and qualified in 8th. The Sunday on the Island near Montreal, went totally different as Norris had to retire on lap 9 with a suspension failure. Sainz couldn’t make top 10 either and finished in 11th.
France. Back in Europe and McLaren seemed to have found some improvements to the car as Norris qualified on Saturday in 5th position, just 1 position in front of teammate Sainz, who had a good run to 6th. The race on Sunday turned out to be a boring race but both drivers managed to finish in the points with Norris in 9th and Sainz an impressive 6th.
Austria. At the Red Bull Ring, it was a Saturday with two different views. While Sainz had trouble getting the car in the perfect operating window and qualified down in 15th, Norris had a great day and made Q3 again, getting him 6th on the grid. An awesome Sunday for fans and drivers alike saw McLaren take another double points finish as Sainz crossed the line in 8th, while Norris had a long battle but came home in 6th.
England. McLaren is still in an upward flow as on Saturday Norris made Q3 again and qualified 8th. Sainz hit some trouble during Q2 and got stuck in 13th position. On Sunday however, it was the other way around as Norris went backwards to finish just outside the points in 11th and Sainz having a great race to finish 6th.
Germany. This time on Saturday, it was Norris who couldn’t get a lap together and qualified down in 16th. McLaren opted to change a few PU elements and he had to start from the back of the grid. Sainz meanwhile, hooked up a few great laps which saw him qualify in 7th. On Sunday, Norris his bad luck wasn’t over yet as he retired on lap 25 with a power loss. Sainz had a better day as he finished the race in 5th position.
Hungary. Final race before the summer break and all eyes were on McLaren as on Saturday, both drivers made Q3 and while Sainz qualified in 8th, his teammate Norris did one better and qualified in 7th. The race on Sunday was a good one for the team as both drivers ended up in the points with Norris in 9th but another fifth-place finish for Sainz.
Now it’s the summer break so what did we learn so far?
McLaren is a strong midfield team and although Norris had his ups and downs, both him and Sainz make a great team. Spirits within the team seem high and the car is working pretty well. If they can keep the momentum and improve bit by bit, I see no reason why they can’t take fourth in the constructors’ championship in 2019.