McLaren looks set for a strong weekend at Austin, the Woking team featuring in the top 5 with both cars in FP2. Lando Norris clocked a 1:35.203 to end the day P2, just over two-and-a-half tenths shy of Sergio Perez’s P1 time of a 1:34.946. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished Friday fifth, setting a 1:35.457, a further quarter of a second off Perez’ pace.
Asked about his chances going forward, Norris was cautiously optimistic, believing that, while the result looks promising, it’s hard to get there:
"It was a good day in terms of result and pace, but not easy to achieve that. [It was] difficult because of the wind, the bumps and the conditions were very tricky out there.
"And even with the setup, the first couple of runs I struggled quite a bit, for the final run we’ve made some changes, and I was much happier with the car, I could push it more and the lap time came easier."
But the young Briton reckons there’s ground to make up overnight, mainly changes to the setup of his MCL35M, in order to make him more confident out on track.
"I think we’re in a good place. I feel like we can quite easily make some changes into tomorrow to give myself some more confidence, and confidence is lap time a lot of the time. Decent first day, and I look forward to the rest [of the weekend]."
Tyre degradation was a main talking point on Friday at Austin, and Norris agrees tyres will be key to the outcome on Sunday afternoon:
"[It was] tough because there’s a lot of degradation, you can still be fast, but with a lot of degradation. Everyone’s been struggling with a similar thing, because of the temperatures, track surface and so on. It was also tricky because I ran the tyres that I flatspotted, which makes it feel a lot worse than it is. It feels okay, but again, not easy. You want to do the same lap times all the time, but when you see it slowly ‘degging off’, it doesn’t feel good but sometimes that’s just the way it is. (It’s) probably going make for a good race on Sunday, [to see] who can keep their tyres in a good condition."
Today was a good day 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/2yV3E4VKJf— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) October 22, 2021
Ricciardo shared the same feelings as Norris, believing track and weather conditions were sub-optimal on Friday, leading to difficulties.
"I think everyone was fighting the car a bit today, the grip was pretty low, the tyres dropped off quite a lot, already after a lap. And, of course, we know the track is quite bumpy so it definitely throws you around.
"It was challenging, but all that being said, it was also quite fun. The aim this weekend is to struggle less than everyone else. I think we’ll be in a good position. Today both of us in the top 5, so it was solid," concluded the Australian.
Daniel rather likes Texas and is enjoying life at the moment, both on and off the track, joking that his good Friday pace will lead to some off-track benefits:
"It’s always better to have a good Friday, doesn’t really dictate your weekend but it means there’s less head-scratching tonight, hopefully we can get out of here earlier and get some more barbecues." he jokingly concluded.
Ricciardo took a new Mercedes power unit last time out in Istanbul, and will be hoping to reap the rewards of a fresh engine this weekend at the Circuit of The Americas.