“Big decision” not to pass Verstappen for lead ensured podium finish – Norris

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Lando Norris believes he could have passed Max Verstappen to lead the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, but would have ultimately lost a podium finish if he had.

The McLaren driver moved up to second place on lap 35 of Sunday’s 63-lap race by passing Charles Leclerc after the restart. He was aided by McLaren’s decision to put both its drivers on soft tyres instead of the widely-preferred medium compound at this stage in the race.

Norris then closed within a second of race-leader Verstappen and would have been in a position to use DRS against his rival had he stayed that close on the next lap.

“This was a big decision I had to make,” Norris said in a social media video. “I’m on the soft because my only chance of overtaking with Leclerc would be at the very start. And on the soft tyre, compared to a medium, they come in a bit quicker. So we made the decision to go onto the soft.”

“I think I could have overtaken Max,” he said. “Especially on like lap two [after the restart].”

But as that lap began Norris’ team told him on his radio to “look after the tyre”.

“I could have overtaken Verstappen, I think,” Norris continued. “Maybe not. I could have at least tried.

“But I wouldn’t have finished on the podium, I think, if I tried, because I would have killed my tyres and I think Leclerc would have got me.”

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Norris fell to third after Lewis Hamilton passed him, and took the chequered flag 1.8 seconds ahead of Leclerc.

Hamilton’s pass was inevitable, McLaren believe
McLaren’s director of strategy and sporting Randy Singh said opting for soft tyres had been a “really difficult decision.”

“The medium tyres would get us to the end fairly safely,” he explained, “but we only had the sets that came off the cars available, and there are always issues getting those back up to the optimum temperature in the time available. The soft tyres, in contrast, were already in the blankets and get up to temperature much more quickly

“Added to that, you don’t know how the race is going to restart until after the tyres are fitted. The soft tyres will have a better launch but, even with a rolling start, will perform better over the first few laps. So, really, the question was: do we want to take the benefit at the start and try to gain a position, but accept we may struggle at the end of the race – or do we want to stick with the medium compound?”

While Singh was convinced Hamilton “would have got past Lando irrespective of his tyre choice” the decision to take softs “is what delivered a podium to us – alongside Lando’s excellent stint managing the tyre but also managing the situation with cars behind.”

“We should not underestimate how good a job he’s done,” Singh continued. “When you get passed by a car in that kind of stint, it’s incredibly difficult to not let it cascade into letting the other cars get past. I think he drove with an enormous amount of maturity and skill to keep that third place.”

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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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  • 18 comments on ““Big decision” not to pass Verstappen for lead ensured podium finish – Norris”

    1. For midtier teams, this will be the most common way of thinking on the sprint race, particularly if it affects the Sunday starting position.
      The same reasoning will apply: “Yes, I could have tried to get into the Sunday pole. But the PU/tyres degradation from overtaking HAM/VER could’ve let us exposed and pushed us to 4th-5th in the end of the Sprint.”
      Norris stint on softs was a little longer than the Sprints will probably be. but this occurrence highlights the risk management on F1: it is to costly to try to get 1 position ahead, because it might cost 2-3 positions backwards, even if the attempt was initially successful – so, let’s keep the current position.

      1. Gusmaia It remains to be seen of course but I will be surprised if they aren’t all on the same compound tires for the Sprint Qualifiers.

    2. Thank you Pirelli, you absolute shambles of a tyre company

      Reply moderated
    3. I think Norris makes some great points about what might have happened, but surely he couldn’t have thought all that through in that split second of time he had to decide? I think he explains it well in hindsight, but…hindsight is 20/20. I thought he had said right after the race that he couldn’t have been sure if he’d have to give the spot back anyway? I might be wrong on that, but I thought that made sense as it would have been all he’d have had time to consider.

      1. @robbie

        I think that you’re confused. This is not about the safety car incident.

        1. @aapje My bad, you’re right. I read the headline and indeed the article, but still had it in my head he was talking about passing him when Max had his little bobble behind the safety car. Didn’t read the article carefully enough. In fact it was Leclerc’s decision to make when Max had that little off. I’ll be all right. Confused on that for sure as you well pointed out. Still Norris does make some great points about his decisions in that last stint, and what a shame it has to be soooo much about tire conservation.

    4. I don’t agree. The Honda would struggle to overtake Norris and if he did no matter the time loss the Ferrari can’t overtake a mclaren around Imola.

      1. Missed Sainz overtaking Ricciardo easily then?

        Reply moderated
    5. I bet he was even thinking about dropping the fight with Hamilton too just to prevent Leclerc (I was hoping he would), but he decided to show some of his stuff despite the inevitable pass, and thankfully the tyre lasted and it worked out in the end.

    6. Nonsense comment. All drivers could have gone faster but chose not to due to tyres.

      1. Exactly! And if he had a faster car he would win all races…

    7. The only thing Norris could have done better would be to keep Leclerc on his DRS range: Leclerc was not mounting any attack on him but that DRS kept Lewis behind him. If he had that awareness maybe he’d be able to keep P2.

      1. True, that’s a good idea, I considered it a leclerc’s “fault” (if your car is slower not much you can do to keep in drs range at all times), but norris could’ve also managed the pace a bit and use leclerc as a shield, in a DRS train hamilton would’ve ended 4th, perez got stuck behind both renaults like that as well.

      2. I think that was actually great driving by Hamilton as he put enough pressure on Leclerc to get him to just drop out of range for one lap which then left him a sitting duck.

      3. @James Coulee

        The only thing Norris could have done better would be to keep Leclerc on his DRS range

        Interesting idea, although he was probably thinking like us that the Mercedes was too fast to really need DRS and focus was on Leclerc.

    8. Woulda coulda, who knows? He could have won the race, could have crashed out trying, could have forced Verstappen into a mistake as he tried to get his position back. Could have held him up enough for Leclerc to get into the fight with Max.

      There’s so many possibilities that could have happened. I guess this is just a better headline than “we had to go into tyre management mode”

    9. I don’t think Verstappen would have been overtaken so easily. There is no DRS on the second lap yet, and by the time DRS is enabled, Max’s medium should be working fine.

    10. Once one of the Mercedes drivers miss a race, then Norris is eligible for the Mercedes substitution. And we’ll probably see the rise of Norris.

      But in my heart I want him to rebuild McLaren.

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