Lando Norris, McLaren, Sochi Autodrom, 2021

McLaren will review “wrong decision” not to overrule Norris on tyre call

2021 Russian Grand Prix

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McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl admitted the team made a mistake by not ordering Lando Norris to pit when the rain intensified in the final laps of the Russian Grand Prix.

Norris stayed out on a set of slick tyres as the conditions deteriorated and ended up sliding off the track. Having led much of the race he finished seventh.

Seidl said the team had followed Norris’ preference to stick with slick tyres despite the worsening weather. “As always, in these tricky situations, it’s communication between the driver and the pit wall using all the information we have available in terms of weather forecast and what other cars are doing, trying to brief Lando and at the same time get the feedback from Lando how the conditions are,” he explained. “That’s how I’d say that was the decision to be made about what to do to pit or not.

“Lando, with the information he had from us as well as what he was feeling on track, he felt good staying out there on the slicks. And in the end we didn’t overrule him as a team, so that’s something we need to look into to see what we could have done better.

“Because, of course, in hindsight, it was the wrong decision that we made as a team. But we win together, we lose together, the important thing is to analyse it, to learn from it and then move on.”

Lewis Hamilton, who pursued Norris prior to the rain storm, pitted after he was ordered to come in by Mercedes, and went on to win. Seidl said their rivals benefited from being able to react to what they were doing.

“On Lewis’ side we heard the discussions as well,” he told Sky, “it was pretty much the same.

“Obviously you get the chance to wait on what we are doing and do the opposite because he was in P2 at this point, we didn’t have this opportunity,” said Seidl.

“And we wanted to go for the win. That’s why we decided together to stay out, it just didn’t work out.”

He said the team and Norris were “very disappointed” with the outcome but was pleased with his driver’s performance.

“I think apart from the the last two or three laps what we have seen, again, from the team together with him, from his side yesterday when he pulled off the pole and also today in the race, it’s impressive what he’s pulling off only in his third year in Formula 1.”

Seidl said the potential Norris and McLaren had shown to win a second race this season on merit demonstrated why they must learn from their mistake. “That’s always the first thing we do. It doesn’t matter what the outcome of a race, we can do this.

“But then at the same time, I think it’s also important to see all the positives from this week and also on his side and come back stronger in Turkey.”

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2021 Russian Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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16 comments on “McLaren will review “wrong decision” not to overrule Norris on tyre call”

  1. I think Lando’s time will come.

    I agree that it was the wrong call to not overrule the driver in this situation, even though it could’ve dried up just as quickly. Mistakes happen and I’m sure Lando is the kind of driver who can tuck this away as a learning experience.

  2. Quite right. This might be a useful lesson for the team, and quite a valuable one if they keep their upward trend.

  3. There are such fine margins to these things and McLaren’s decision to stay out could easily have been the right one.

    At this years’ Austrian MotoGP, like today, there was rain at the very end of the race. Most of the riders came into the pits for wet tyres but Brad Binder stayed out on slicks. The riders on wet tyres blasted their way through the field but Binder, who at times almost came to a complete standstill as he negotiated some of the tighter corners, held on for victory.

    The decision to stay on slicks won him that race.

    1. kind of different, I think. Binder was nowhere all race that day and closing in once the frontrunners (Marquez, Bagnaia) struggling for grips. So he chipped himself all in to the risk giving himself the biggest rewards. Binder would finished around fifth or sixth if he would to pit.

      Norris and McLaren yesterday, looked like a bit afraid to decide as the would be the one the lose over any scenario. I guess fear of losing the lead was filling Norris head at that moment, and McLaren not further intervened was also poor.

      It’s a hindsight, but one should factor that Sochi is a long and twisty track. So a time loss during pitstop could be easily compensated with inters tyre optimum performance, even though it was already in the closing laps. Norris may lose a place versus Hamilton in the rain anyway, but in all likelihood he’d at least be on podium.

  4. @sonnycrockett excellent point about Brad Binder. That happened recently so it must have been on people’s minds.

  5. It’s always a gamble on these situations, although it is no surprise that Ham and Ver go it right somehow. It seems to always be like that: the best guys and the best teams seem to be luckier more often than not. It must mean that they make their luck and have a better sense than the other of what and when is the right call. That said, it is easy to look like a genius of an idiot. The reason could have stopped or move a bit and Kandi would have been a genius. I really hope that his time would come – a win is overdue more for him!

    Reply moderated
    1. Learon

      It’s always a gamble on these situations, although it is no surprise that Ham and Ver go it right somehow.

      There’s also the ironical disadvantage of being the first before a sudden change of racing conditions which come into play on those situations, like what happened with Hamilton and Mercedes in the Hungarian GP. This time around the latter and Verstappen were the chasing drivers after a clumsy and sluggish Saturday for them respectively, and as such they profited on that given the circustances. The leading driver and team are also the first ones to decide, and they have the most to lose. To a lesser extent it was true for the guys in the midfield teams who were running for points or a podium as well.

      Reply moderated
    2. @Learon It was simply a case of them behind and nothing to lose with a gamble which is what it really was.

      Think about Hungary for example. It was Hamilton in front, but didn’t want to risk changing tyre as he was leading. The pack had not much to lose and all changed. Hamilton had no better judgement there.

      1. Except Hamilton staying out and not changing in Hungary was the team’s decision, not his. Over the radio during the “formation” lap he kept reporting to the team that it was dry and the team had to reiterate that they think it was the right decision

        https://youtu.be/jYb-xyq4fH8

        The worse thing you can say about Hamilton in that scenario was that he didn’t fight the team enough or much. He just trusted them and lost out that time (the opposite happened in Russia just now).

        This is different from Norris where the team asked him what he wanted to do and he chose to stay out because it wasn’t too wet yet. Some blame can be assigned to the team for not forcing the issue but in the end it was his call as we know fr the radio.

        ======

        On a side note, radio communications were allowed during the Hungary pre-restart lap. Those are not allowed during a Formation Lap, but because it was
        a restart and not the actual race start that rule doesn’t apply.

        Reply moderated
  6. Well McLaren’s pit stops weren’t good either.

    If they want to start being considered as championship contenders this, and strategy, must improve.

  7. Funny though how Lando kept blaming his team in the post race interviews for feeding him the wrong information. I never heard that, but what I did hear was him telling them to shut up everytime they spoke. He reversed it a little at times, saying “it was my call..but..”. I think what this shows is that Hamilton and Verstappen were mature enough to know their team had the right information to make a decision.

    Reply moderated
  8. I agree they haven’t mentioned Dan’s very slow pit stop and how much further up he could have been. That’s how Hamilton and the others got past him.

    Reply moderated
  9. They stayed out early in the race when Stroll and others came in for fresh tyres. That was the right decision.

    The rain decision was marginal, as per my posy above. When Hamilton came in most of the track was OK for slicks.

  10. Norris’s crew were not assertive enough by asking what conditions were like. They should have ordered him in for inters. He would have been undercut by Hamilton but they had 50 seconds on Verstapen, plenty of time for a safe pitstop.

  11. These rain gambles can go both ways. Sometimes you win sometimes you don’t.

    In Brazil 2008, it was Toyota who told their drivers to stay out on dry tyres. Even though some people pretend Glock was gifting the championship to Hamilton on the last lap, he actually gained a place with that gamble not to pit. He initially gained 3 but on the last corner he was famously overtaken back by Vettel and Hamilton again. Still a net gain of one place on Kovalainen. While Trulli slipped back behind Kovalainen and therefore made no progress, but didn’t lose out either.

    It’s easier to make a call on a gamble like this when your tyres are ruined already. Like Button in 2010 in Australia when he had ruined his inters and the track was drying. However more rain was potentially predicted, so all drivers were trying to wait it out and see if the rain actually did come back. Button couldn’t wait as he ruined his tyres and gambled on slicks. The rain didn’t come back and ever since Button is hailed as some sort of weather predicting god.

    In this case, had the rain kept drizzling at the same level then Norris would have held that win. The weather forecast didn’t indicate with any certainty that it would pick up.

    Verstappen was on dead tyres, languishing in P7 having been overtaken by Alonso even. All he had to lose was one place to Vettel. Why not gamble and hope that the rain picks up even more.

    For Hamilton it was also easy since he didn’t lose position by taking an extra stop and he was already losing more and more time to Norris anyway.

    For Norris it didn’t make sense to come in and lose position to Hamilton.

    Where it really went all wrong for Norris is that Red Bull and Mercedes told their drivers the rain would pick up, McLaren did not give such clear indication and simply asked the drivers if they could cope with the track as it was. So Norris was at a huge disadvantage there.

  12. McLaren falling on their sword for Lando but at the end of the day, Lando went against them thinking his was the better decision…

    He’s learned an expensive lesson!

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