“The changes we did overnight didn’t help as much as we’d hoped,” Norris explained. “The way we have to drive the car and the soft tyres are not a good combination, and we’ve experienced it before.”
Given what we’ve witnessed at earlier races, you would imagine Hamilton thinking that it will be a significant pain to encounter Norris so early in his projected climb up the field but Lando was not confident he’ll be able to do anything to halt the seven-time champion’s progress around Istanbul.
“He’ll be past in a couple of laps…” Norris said. Which might be a little disingenuous given that Lando won’t be running softs as a starting tyre tomorrow afternoon. On the other hand, he might simply be right!
Next on Hamilton’s radar assuming they complete the opening lap in anything like grid order, will be Sergio Perez. Never the greatest qualifier, the Mexican’s half-second deficit to Verstappen in Q3 is pretty much par for the course over the season, but Perez is a tough racer who Lewis can’t take lightly.
So, once by him, who’s next? Fernando Alonso… Hopefully Lewis won’t go to bed tonight thinking about the Alpine’s robust defence in Budapest, or could have nightmares! But Alonso, after a great race in Sochi which could easily have rewarded him with a podium, is back to his feisty best. You just know that he’ll be up for another scrap with his team mate of 14 years ago. On it all weekend, unbelievably Alonso will start in the top five for the first time since the Japanese GP of 2014… Which hammers it home all the more: what a waste… In the intervening time, Hamilton has won 71 grands prix. But that won’t stop Alonso fighting.
Next in line is Pierre Gasly, who will know what he has to do and is super-happy to start fourth. “We had a lot of understeer yesterday and made so many changes that we couldn’t confirm in the wet in FP3. But in qualifying the car was a LOT better, so really good job by the team.” After giving AlphaTauri a bit of a slating for operational ineffectiveness in Sochi, this was a thumbs-up for his team from the Frenchman, who rewarded them with a brilliant job in qualifying just 0.13sec behind Verstappen’s Red Bull!
How well can he help the Red Bull cause? “Well, I had Bottas behind me for 30 laps in Sochi,” he smiled. Hamilton might prove a different proposition…
Splitting Verstappen and Gasly on the grid, and thus the next target for Hamilton, will be Charles Leclerc. The Monégasque enjoyed himself from first thing Friday morning, finding that the grippier surface allowed him to play with the rear end of the car and rotate it like that, which he greatly enjoyed. His one-lap pace was highly impressive but his softs didn’t last long, a phenomenon seen at Paul Ricard and again at Sochi a fortnight ago when team mate Sainz’s tyres degraded early while leading. Tomorrow though, they won’t be used and Leclerc could be another tough nut.