After a recent run of strong performances, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo both found themselves struggling for pace on the streets of Istanbul in qualifying for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix.
Italian GP race winner Ricciardo failed to make the cut at the end of the first round, while Norris battled his way through to Q3 but will still only line up in seventh, a far cry from the maiden pole position he achieved last time out in Sochi.
“A tough day with tricky conditions," Norris acknowledged. "We were just lacking pace today, so it was very tough to achieve a lot more than what we did."
Norris was nearly bumped out of qualifying at the end of the second round but just squeaked through. In the final top ten pole shoot-out he was a quarter of a second slower than the next person on the grid, Red Bull's Sergio Perez.
:There was a slim possibility we could’ve got [P6] but even Pérez was quite a bit quicker than us," Norris said.
"Not the result we wanted, but I think it was the best result we could really achieve, so we’ll try again tomorrow and see if we can do better.”
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl conceded that it had been a "challenging qualifying session" for the team and that it had been "a disappointing outcome" after their recent highs.
"Despite working hard overnight to unlock more performance from the car, we haven’t made a large step forward on performance and that meant we struggled for pace today," he said. "Especially on the soft tyres.
"That resulted in an early end to Daniel’s session qualifying P16, and Lando - after getting through to Q3 on the medium tyre - qualified P8 and will start P7 [after Lewis Hamilton's grid penalty is applied].
"Tomorrow is another day," he continued. "We’re expecting dry conditions and will work hard again this evening to see if we can unlock a little more performance in race trim, with the aim of moving both cars forwards.”
The team remains locked in a tight battle with Ferrari for third place in the constructors championship.
McLaren is currently 17.5 points ahead of the Scuderia, while Norris is in fourth place in the drivers standings despite missing out on a maiden win in Russia when late rain saw him spin out of the lead in the closing laps of the race, handing victory to Lewis Hamilton.
Norris will be starting four places ahead of Hamilton tomorrow, after the Mercedes driver serves his ten place grid drop for taking a new engine this weekend.
Asked how long he thought he would be able to maintain his position over Hamilton in Sunday's race, Norris told Sky Sports f1: "Probably not for long!
"He’ll be past me in a couple of laps," Norris predicted. "I’m just realistic ...I’m not going to say I’m going to beat him, because I’m not. I’m just not a dreamer.”