McLaren drivers expect to be the “back pack” of the two teams as they share their standings predictions after testing in Bahrain.

McLaren drivers expect to be the “back pack” of the two teams as they share their standings predictions after testing in Bahrain.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both mentioned Ferrari and Red Bull when considering where McLaren would fit into the 2024 preliminary order, believing that the two teams are ahead as things stand.

Red Bull and Ferrari shared pole position for three days of pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit, with Max Verstappen starting the week fastest ahead of pace-setting efforts from Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

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McLaren, meanwhile, had a quiet week amid teething problems with the MCL38 that included a fuel system issue on the second day of the race, although a world away from the pain they endured during the 2022 and 2023 tests.

Sitting seventh and 14th respectively on the final day’s time tables, which again saw many teams split their drivers between warm morning and cold, more representative evening conditions, Piastri and Norris had their say on how the field is organized.

“I think it’s been…not a perfect few days, we’ve certainly had our fair share of issues, which aren’t exactly what we’d like, but better now than (at the Grand Prix) next week!” Norris smiled.

Norris: We are definitely the ‘small group behind Ferrari’

“I feel good, the car has felt (like) an improvement in some areas, and in other areas there is still a lot to improve. A few positive days, but still a big gap to some of the guys at the front, so that’s a lot of work we still need to do in the next week or so try to close it already.

Having pushed further where he thinks McLaren stands, he added: “We are definitely a little bit behind Ferrari and a very little bit behind Red Bull – I think they are very far ahead.

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“Other than that, I think we’re still not in a bad position, maybe we’re close to the next group, but those two teams definitely seem to have a good advantage over everyone else.”

Piastri echoed Norris’s sentiments when he declared that McLaren “needs to find more” if they are to achieve their goal of consistently fighting for podiums and victories this year.

“I think it wasn’t the best test overall for us, but I think (Friday) afternoon we did a lot of good work, which was good, a lot of laps,” said the Australian, who is entering his second session. F1 campaign.

Piastri ‘feels more comfortable’ after 3 days of testing

“I feel better than I did three days ago, but I still have a little work to do. I think we are there or close, but it’s just trying to get more performance out of the car.

“I think we’ll find out what everyone has next week, but it was fine. I did the race distance and I feel in good shape after that, so it’s not too bad.

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He continued: “I think Red Bull is a step ahead of everyone. Ferrari looks just as strong, not to the same degree, but it looks like a good second fastest at the moment. We have a bit of work to do, but it’s not a bad place to start.

“I think we’re somewhere towards the end of the mix there, but if we want to start challenging for the podium regularly and try to win races, we need to find more.”

McLaren are aiming to improve on last year’s P4 in the constructors’ standings, having started 2023 on the back foot before making major progress with a mid-season upgrade to clean up Aston Martin’s late finish behind Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari.