Analysis: How McLaren played the “team game” while Haas “f***ed up”

2019 Monaco Grand Prix

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“I guess we fucked up” remarked a dejected Kevin Magnussen as the Monaco Grand Prix unfolded, and drivers who trailed him early in the race emerged from the pits ahead of the Haas.

The team’s race when awry when it brought Magnussen in during the early Safety Car period and feel victim to a strategy by McLaren which involved sacrificing one driver’s race to benefit the other’s.

Magnussen was running sixth ahead of Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz Jnr, Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon when the Safety Car came out. He and the five drivers ahead of him came into the pits, while most of their former pursuers stayed out.

When the race restarted Magnussen held 14th. Ahead of him were Daniel Ricciardo, who had pitted from fifth under the Safety Car, Kimi Raikkonen, Lance Stroll and 10th-placed Lando Norris.

Neither of the McLaren drivers had pitted. But the team knew that its best chance of keeping Sainz ahead of the two rapid Toro Rossos in his now best-of-the-rest sixth place was to create a gap for him to drop into. They did that by telling Norris to reduce his pace.

His first lap time after the Safety Car was on a par with Sainz’s. “Carlos is four cars ahead of you,” the team advised Norris. “We’d like you to target lap time 20.5 please.” While he did that, Sainz’s lap times were up to two seconds quicker:

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McLaren told Norris they had switched his strategy to “plan B” and he was “doing a really good job” with his lap times. As the stint went on he was allowed to increase his pace: “I’d like to update the target please, I’d like you to do 20.0,” he was told. Another half-second was later taken off that target.

Magnussnen was among those caught up in the train behind Norris, and was powerless to prevent Sainz opening up enough of a gap to come out ahead of him. Despite McLaren’s best efforts, they weren’t able to catch the Toro Rosso drivers in Norris’s traffic queue, even after he was told to increase his pace further.

“Carlos did a 18.2, we’d like you to match that please,” he was told. “Yeah I don’t think that’s going to be possible,” Norris answered.

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Afterwards Norris says he wasn’t frustrated by the having to lap beneath his pace to help Sainz.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Monaco, 2019
Magnussen: “”It was a perfect weekend until the race”
“At the point we knew I couldn’t do anything special it was turned more into a team game and I had to try and help Carlos and the team get a better result rather than just focusing on my own race,” he explained.

“They told me what I needed to do and I did that and allowed him to box cleanly ahead of me. If I didn’t do that I think he probably would have been passed by the Toro Rossos because they were quite a bit quicker. I think they did a very good job. We did our homework before the race because we thought this might happen so we were prepared and got some good points.”

Magnussen, however, was mystified at how he’d managed to end the race point-less from fifth on the grid.

“I don’t really know what happened,” he said. “It was a perfect weekend until the race. It’s a big shame but we’ll see what went wrong today and why it happened.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “Analysis: How McLaren played the “team game” while Haas “f***ed up””

  1. Magnussen, however, was mystified at how he’d managed to end the race point-less from 15th on the grid.

    from 5th on the grid @keithcollantine

    (sorry, feel like the stats police today)

  2. Smart strategy, but this ‘petty racing’ just proves to me why Monaco cannot be a Grand Prix.
    Organise whatever you want, and invite as many Cannes celebs, but don’t pretend to be a GP.

    1. georgeboole (@)
      31st May 2019, 15:10

      @coldfly I m pretty sure it is exciting to watch Monaco from close, seeing those cars lapping at such a pace in those narrow streets where you can drive your own car later on the day, but yes, it’s not that much enjoyable on tv, especially with the cover it gets. How many times did we see Hamilton’s front tires up close?

      1. As a spectacle Monaco is a huge success but as a race it is a farce, the only thing that kept this race interesting was Max chasing Lewis. We lose good circuits every year but Monaco never seems to be under threat, what a joke.

    2. I agree, I am glad I did not watch it this year. I watched the 7 minutes highlights video which F1 put out and that was perfect for me.

    3. José Lopes da Silva
      3rd June 2019, 10:54

      With all due respect, please go watch NASCAR.

  3. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
    31st May 2019, 13:56

    McLaren has been very impressive in my opinion. They had some unfortunate races in Bahrain and China which weren’t their fault. They are best of the rest so far and the strategy has been spot on. Hopefully they can close the gap to big 3.

    1. georgeboole (@)
      31st May 2019, 15:12

      @panagiotism-papatheodorou Ferrari must learn from them I guess. And I m really glad McLaren did not go the Williams way after all those years

  4. Can anybody explain to me why the section from portier to the nouvelle chicane is not a DRS zone?

    1. It’s a curve and downhill braking, less downforce on a curve is NOT a good idea, plus if the DRS failed to close during braking for the chicane it’s likely a huge accident would occur. Too dangerous.

  5. Seems not quite ‘racing’ eh? A team gets more points by asking one of the drivers to go slower. Obviously only useful on a tight street circuit, but if this gets seen to work how long before Ferrari ask LeClerc to do 1:25 so Vettel can finish on the podium?
    Can’t blame the lower order teams for smart ideas like this but I wouldn’t want to see the fastest teams regularly at the ‘train game’.

    1. Blocking has been an intergral part of racing since its creation.

  6. Did the orders affect Norris’ finishing position? Would he have finished higher if he didn’t cover up Sainz?

    1. Norris only lost one place with his stop because Stroll and Räikkönen managed to slow down the rest of the pack even more. McLaren pretty much maximized their result.

      1. And if Norris had pitted a lap earlier he may have come out ahead of Ric and ended 9th – if he’d had the pace to chase down Gro like Ric did – otherwise 10th. Nearly maximised.

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