Norris ready for Merc battle after superb McLaren P4
Lando Norris will start on the second-row at the Australian GP, with the Red-Bull of Sergio Perez beside him; Leclerc is on pole, with Verstappen in second; Mercedes will line up in fifth and sixth; watch Sunday’s race live on Sunday at 6am on Sky Sports F1
By Megan Wellens
Last Updated: 09/04/22 11:27am
Lando Norris says he is braced for a battle with Mercedes at the Australian GP as he finally got to grips with his McLaren to qualify a surprise fourth at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit.
The McLaren driver was in top spot at the end of final practice, showing real signs that he had unlocked speed which has been sorely missing for the team so far this season.
Although the Ferraris and Red Bulls came back at the young British driver in qualifying, he managed to hold onto his second row spot, catalysing his and his team’s season.
“We struggled to get out of Q1 in Bahrain and nearly went out in Q3 in Saudi,” said Norris.
“It is nice to be this far up, so it is good.
“We have made some small steps forward as a team, but realistically this car is a bit quicker on this track than others and that’s the main part.”
After 14th and 15th place finishes in the opening race of the season in Bahrain, McLaren were presented with a barrage of issues they had to try and fix.
With testing in Barcelona looking positive for the team, their struggles came as quite a shock, not only to fans but to the drivers themselves too.
Some hope was restored in Jeddah, as Norris managed a seventh place finish and the Australian GP has once again taken them forward as a team, with Norris starting in fourth and Daniel Ricciardo in seventh at his home Grand Prix.
Norris will line up alongside just in front of old Formula 2 friend and foe, George Russell, who starts just one place behind his Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton, in sixth and Norris is relishing the challenge to battle it out with Russell on the track again.
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He said: “It has been a while since F2 when we had our last battles. I look forward to it.
“I think we can have some good racing and hopefully race more often, but normally the race pace from the Mercs is very strong and tends to be a bit stronger than ours.
“We had some good pace and better pace than we expected today, so hopefully that can continue tomorrow.”
Ricciardo quietly confident for home race
Norris isn’t the only one who has seen some real improvement in his car, his McLaren teammate Ricciardo is holding onto some cautious optimism for his home GP in Melbourne on Sunday.
“I think I am generally satisfied,” he said. “From those kind of points of view I’m happy, so I think overall the whole weekend has been pretty good.
“The only little ‘err’ was the last run – I went about a second slower with a new set of tyres, so that’s hurting a little bit at the moment.
“I could have maybe been a little better getting something out of that, but generally I’m happy with how this week is going so far.
“There are a couple of quicker ones [around us], but in front of us Mercedes are obviously not their usual selves, so I think we could maybe put up a fight with them.
“We’ll be all right tomorrow – I’m quietly confident.”
Watch Sunday’s race live on Sunday at 6am on Sky Sports F1