McLaren’s race was ruined by technical problems for both drivers but their cars were quick enough for both to score points, team principal Andrea Stella believes.Lando Norris to make no fewer than six pit stops. Team mate Oscar Piastri retired 13 laps into his debut due to damage to a part of his car’s electrics.
Stella said McLaren opted to keep Norris in the race despite his problem. “There was a pneumatic pressure leak on Lando’s car,” he explained. “We discovered this leak relatively soon in the race, and then we knew that it was possible to do only 10, 11 laps each time before having to refill.
“So we decided to stay in the race. We decided to try and stay at least within one lap from the leader in the last ten laps and then if there is a Safety Car try and see if there’s an opportunity. But it meant that we did six stops.”
Norris was lapped halfway through the race, having already stopped three times. As there was no late Safety Car period after he made his sixth and final pit stop he was classified a twice-lapped 17th.
He said the problem struck early in the race. “I had a good start, a good launch, I made up a few positions I think, then we just had problems from turn one onwards, basically,” he told media including RaceFans afterwards. “Pneumatic problems and various other issues just brought us out of the race more and more.”
Despite languishing at the bottom of the constructors’ standings, a position the team last held halfway through the 2017 season, Stella was positive about the pace of the McLaren MCL60 on Sunday.
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“I think the most positive element today is that without the issues, Lando would have been a strong contender for points,” he said.
“The pace of the car in the race was almost beyond expectation. I think in the race we see some reward of the work we did over the winter in trying to improve the interaction between the car and the tyres. This was certainly a strong position on Lando’s side.
“But also Oscar actually was having good degradation in the first stint. He overtook cars, it was a very tight race, so we could have been in the points with two cars. That’s the most positive outcome of this event.”
Norris agreed the performance of the McLaren MCL60 was “not as bad as everyone was expecting before the test and before the race.” He said the car’s pace “was actually okay-ish today as well, and I think we could have scored a point today at least. So a shame we had the problems that we did.”
“We still tried to stay in it for as long as possible, that’s why we only retired with two laps to go,” he added. “We scored points in the past in Jeddah [the next race on the calendar], there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have scored points today.”
McLaren changed Piastri’s steering wheel in an unsuccessful attempt to fix the fault on his car. The team was still trying to establish the origin of his electrical fault after the race.
“The steering wheel change didn’t fix the problem, because we see that the electronic damage is further down the line around the steering column,” Stella explained. “So the steering wheel wasn’t the problem. It was a problem with the harness, probably, we are investigating. Not fixable in a short time.”
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