McLaren fears vindicated by double Q2 exit in Shanghai qualifying

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McLaren's Carlos Sainz admits a difficult qualifying backed up fears of a tougher weekend in China.

Last time out in Bahrain, both he and teammate Norris made the top 10, the first time the British team had achieved that since Singapore 2017.

On Saturday in Shanghai though, both drivers rounded out the top 15 with the Spaniard ahead of his rookie teammate.

“We knew before coming here that this track could expose our weaknesses a lot more than the other two tracks that we’ve been to this season,” said Sainz, who had pointed to the demands on the front of the car in China as a potential problem.

“So we kind of, not expected to be weaker, but we expected to struggle a bit more.”

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Throughout practice though, signs had been pretty good for McLaren with at least one driver in the top 10 in all three sessions.

“After FP2 yesterday I think everyone in the team was really encouraged about the pace and I was very encouraged today also," the former Renault driver continued.

“So to be P14 and 15 is maybe a bit more disappointing because I was thinking about P11, P12 for the start tomorrow after FP3 and after the first laps of qualy.

“I put some seriously good laps together today and I think we just didn’t have the pace. So we’ll analyse why, but today we came a bit back to reality.”

For Norris, P15 also marked the first he had failed to make Q3 in his F1 career.

“I was improving with every lap I did but wasn’t taking massive leaps forward,” he surmised.

“But as a team, with the car we have now, on this track, it is just not as nice or performing as well as it has over the other race weekends.

“This result is a more realistic one. It wasn’t out of the ordinary and we were kind of expecting it.

“The other teams have done a better job and extracted more out of the car this weekend.”