McLaren’s Lando Norris believes that his team were even faster on the straights than Red Bull at the Belgian Grand Prix, but the MCL36 makes poor use of DRS.
McLaren showed glimpses of pace in Spa over the course of the weekend, with Norris finishing third in FP2, before ending the final practice session fourth.
Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was eliminated in the second qualifying session on Saturday, before Norris chose not to set a representative lap time in Q3, knowing that his engine penalty would send him down the order anyway.
A multitude of penalties bumped Ricciardo up to seventh on the grid for Sunday’s race, but the 33-year-old fell back to 15th by the end of the afternoon, while Norris climbed from 17th to 12th.
The young Briton missed out on the final point by just under three seconds as Alex Albon held off Lance Stroll and the McLaren to take 10th.
It was a frustrating day for the British side, and Norris believes it went wrong while they were in the DRS train, as the car performs worse with the rear wing open than its competitors.
“I think we were probably one of the quicker ones on the straights, where we lose a lot is in DRS, for some reason in DRS we’re pretty shocking,” he said, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“Some cars are a lot better than others, like in a pure straight-line condition I think yesterday we were quicker than Red Bull.
“But then the Red Bull opens DRS and gain somehow like another 15km/h and is in a completely different league to a lot of people.
“So, there’s something we’re maybe missing with DRS, so that makes our overtaking opportunities less than other people.
“But straight-line, we were probably one of the quickest this weekend, final sector probably one of the quickest at times yesterday.
“But just slow speed, medium speed, high speed, nothing was a strength this weekend, we’re just a bit down in every area.”
Aston Martin’s race pace is notoriously better than its qualifying pace – a conundrum they have been trying to figure out all season – while the Williams is extremely slippery in a straight line.
The fact that the new cars make it easier to follow, also means that the slipstream is weaker on the straights, which ultimately cost Norris relative to Stroll and Albon on Sunday.
“I think it’s exactly as I expected,” he said.
“I think we knew the racing was going to be a lot worse here this year than it was in previous years, just because the slipstream is so much worse.
“But yeah, apart from that, just getting stuck behind the Aston, and the Williams, I think the Aston’s pace was clearly better than us today.
“But the Williams is just so quick in the straight, and I’m in the DRS train, and I just couldn’t do a lot, I reckon we were just where we deserved to be.”
Norris also observed that the nature of the seven-kilometre Spa Francorchamps Circuit exaggerated the pace disparities between teams.
“I think the gaps between all cars looked bigger this weekend than normal,” he explained.
“A longer track, a lot of it’s all about efficiency here, running as low downforce as possible, but still having a car that performs very well in all the high-speed and low-speed corners, and that’s clearly what we don’t have.”
Norris finished 10th, and Ricciardo 11th at the Dutch Grand Prix last season, but the Briton expects this year’s McLaren car to fare better there this year.
“High downforce, so hopefully moves us a little bit more back in line with Budapest’s kind of pace, I hope,” said the 22-year-old.
“But you never know, it was our worst track last season, so I’m hoping this year it’s not the case, because some of the problems that we had in previous years are maybe not so evident this year.
“And we’ve got other problems, so we’ll see, it can’t be a lot worse I hope than this weekend.”
Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon finished fifth and seventh, respectively, in Spa last weekend, with the Frenchman recovering from 16th on the grid.
The result moves the Enstone-based side 20 points above McLaren in the battle for fourth in the Drivers’ Standings.