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Norris: Russell pole not a surprise given strong Mercedes

Lando Norris says the pole position earned by George Russell and the Mercedes Formula 1 team was not a surprise, because the W13 has been a strong car for much of the season.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Norris qualified fourth in Budapest, having started ahead of Russell at the last race in France. His McLaren teammate Daniel Ricciardo is ninth on the grid.

“It was a very good lap, not perfect,” he said. “I had a big, big snap out of turn five. But I didn't think anything that I could have done, even if was a perfect lap, would have moved me up any higher positions.

“I think George was a surprise in some ways, in other ways, not. It's a track which they should do well in. They just had a bad day [on Friday], so it makes it look like they've done even better, and they were bad in qualifying last week.

“George did a very good job today. So yeah, a bit frustrating, because I thought after yesterday, we might have had a chance. But today they just resumed their normal pace.

“But it was good. I was very happy. It was still a very strong lap. I could easily have been still behind the two [Alpine] cars. Not quite as good as Paul Ricard, but almost."

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Norris doesn’t expect to be able to make any progress from fourth, and his focus is thus on defending, with potentially quicker cars like the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez and the other Mercedes of Hamilton behind him on the grid.

He is also starting immediately ahead of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, whose Alpine team is battling with McLaren in the constructors’ championship.

Norris’s main concern is that the 2022 regulations will make it easier for rivals to pass at a track where traditionally overtaking has been difficult.

"Hopefully I don't need to do too much tomorrow,” he said. “I don't think there'll be many chances to go forward, everyone ahead of me is much quicker.

"Considering George is four tenths ahead of me, Lewis is driving the same car, so he should be a lot quicker tomorrow.

“And then Verstappen and Perez, who are much quicker cars, so it'll be a tough race. But I've got Daniel behind me, so he'll put up a fight. I think we have a good chance.”

Regarding passing he said: “It will be a little bit better than previous years, it won't be as difficult, that's just a fact with these cars. But at the same time, I'm hoping it's not too much better, because it will make their life even more difficult."

McLaren boss Andreas Seidl acknowledged that outscoring the Alpine drivers is a priority for McLaren.

"I wouldn't say we necessarily just focus on the Alpines,” said the German when asked by Motorsport.com about the rivalry. “The most important thing is first and foremost to do our own race, to execute a clean race, clean pitstops, and see the chequered flag.

“Then of course it will be important, because that's our main competitor for this P4, to stay ahead of the Alpine cars. Hopefully Daniel will be in a position to maybe make up one or the other position, maybe in the first lap, or also later in the race.

“It's not clear at the moment what the strategies will look like here. So hopefully this opens further opportunities, and then the target is clear, score more points than Alpine."

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