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Andrea Stella

McLaren reveals fine margins in race-defining Norris call

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella has explained how close Lando Norris was to being pitted initially when the first safety car of the Canadian GP was called.

Stella
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McLaren team principal Andrea Stella has explained how close Lando Norris was to being able to retain his lead during the first safety car period at the Canadian Grand Prix.

The British driver held a comfortable lead over Max Verstappen when Logan Sargeant crashed on the exit of Turn 4 on lap 25. By the time the safety car was called for the incident and McLaren had got its strategy in order, it was just too late for Norris to pit, which the cars behind him did.

After being picked up by the safety car, the 24-year-old also peeled into the pit lane. But by this point, he had lost too much time, and emerged in third place, between the Mercedes of George Russell and team-mate Oscar Piastri.

It was highlighted during the race, and by Verstappen after, that to a certain extent it was a correction of luck for Norris, who benefitted from the timing of a safety car at the Miami Grand Prix to claim his first victory in F1.

"We took a quick look. It looks like he [Lando Norris] was one and a half seconds from the pit - from the time when you actually needed to turn, or you're going straight," Stella told media including RacingNews365 when discussing how close Norris was to being able to pit ahead of Verstappen, Russell and Piastri.

"In hindsight, we could have told the driver 'in case of safety car - pit', so he would have just reacted instinctively to pit."

Norris 'unlucky' with timing of safety car

In what ended up being a fragmented and chaotic race, Norris held on to claim second-position and podium number 18 of his career, despite struggling to match the pace of Verstappen and the Mercedes pair once the track began to dry.

It was a case of what might have been for McLaren, and had the initial safety car decision played out more favourable, it might have been a different outcome. 

Part of the problem for the Woking team that led to Norris missing the opportunity to pit, was that it was torn between bringing him in and making him stay out anyway.

Stella underlined the dynamic weather as playing a key factor in trying to determine the best course of action, whilst pointing out how unlucky Norris was with the timing of the safety car more generally.

"We were monitoring the intensity of the rain," the 53-year-old said. "And this intensity in the last few minutes was kind of reducing.

"So we didn't want to pit unnecessarily for a new set of inters [intermediate tyres] when this set of inters could have been good enough in case of a very light rain. 

"I think it was much easier for the car behind to kinda do the opposite, for instance, as Lando. I think that's a little bit unlucky, not only with the timing of when the safety guard was deployed, with respect to Lando's position on track, but also the time of the safety car in the race, because at that time, Lando was by far the fastest car around on track."

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