Lando Norris has ruled himself out of the fight for pole position in Japan amid Red Bull’s strong day of practice.
The World Championship leaders topped both practice sessions through Max Verstappen, while Norris concluded FP2 in third place.
McLaren is enjoying a strong second half to the campaign, with Norris bagging his third podium of the campaign last time out in Singapore.
But amid his strong run of form, Norris says he is unlikely to challenge for the top time during qualifying.
“I doubt it’s going to be pole, the Red Bull is just doing normal Red Bull at the minute,” he said. “But I think we are not far away.
“I would say we normally get a bit closer come lower fuel, turn the engines up, things like that. I think challenging for pole is probably quite a big task, and probably quite too far.
“But to try and challenge Mercedes, who maybe didn’t look quite so good today, challenge the Ferraris, and Astons, who looked pretty good. I think it’s going to be our battle for tomorrow.”
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MCL60 challenging to drive despite pace
Although it showed strong pace during practice from Suzuka, Norris admits that the car wasn’t comfortable to drive during the day.
“The pace was there. The pace has been pretty good today. Probably one of the closest times we’ve been to Red Bull and the front lot on a Friday," he said.
“So, I think encouraging from a pace point of view, but the car feels pretty all over the place.
"I kind of think it does for the majority. It’s just very low grip, I don’t think it’s just us in particular, it’s just a handful.
“If we can just calm it down a little bit, bring the balance together, I think we can have a good day, the pace is good, but the car is just difficult to drive.”