McLaren justified their attempt to complete yesterday’s sprint race with a set of soft tyres on Lando Norris’ car, despite its failure to pay off.Lance Stroll, but his lap times rose quickly as he suffered from graining soon after the Safety Car restart and had to pit.
Team principal Andrea Stella said the soft tyre appeared to offer the best hope of getting Norris, who started 10th, past any of the cars ahead of him.
“We know that we had eight quicker cars ahead of us and points are given from P1 to P8,” he told media including RaceFans. “So we needed to do something in order to score points. That’s the first point of view.
“In all honesty, we didn’t [expect] the soft to behave like that. We thought that they would degrade, but we didn’t think they would grain so heavily. So this is something that manifested itself during the sprint and it was beyond our expectation.”
McLaren covered themselves each way by splitting their strategies between Norris and team mate Oscar Piastri, who lined up behind him in 11th place.
“We had one car on soft, one car on medium. So we thought we can split the risk because if we have a very eventful sprint with a Safety Car, Virtual Safety Cars and so on, there might be an advantage in being on the soft. But if it’s high degradation on the soft, we have the other car on medium. So I think you have to see this also from a team point of view where you cover all the options.”
Stella said the decision to run Norris on softs was also motivated by a need to gather data for today’s grand prix. “It was important for us to learn a little bit for tomorrow because with the new format – which is exciting, you are always competing for something – we lost what was the P2 in the past in which you could do a long run.
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“So you would have learned these things on Saturday morning, which you can’t [now]. It was also important for us to understand the degradation on the soft and now we have this bit of information.
“I think overall while, yes, now I would do the sprint on medium, there was quite a lot to look at from a team point of view and also in terms of learning for tomorrow.”
Norris also defended the team’s aggressive strategy call. “We knew it was a little bit of a gamble,” he said. “We didn’t go in and just think ‘oh, it’s the biggest gamble ever’. We thought it would not be a bad thing to do, have a better launch, a better first couple of laps, try to get into a good position knowing that there’s a good chance there could be some safety cars and VSCs and things, and being on a softer tyre at that point might not be too bad.
“I think everyone who did do the soft, or made a similar mistake, everyone struggled a lot with the degradation. So it was definitely a lot more than we thought. I guess it’s one of the challenges with this structure of weekend, not getting to do any long running on the softs.
“But we also maybe just didn’t do the best job of trying to understand it and things. It’s tough when you haven’t run it until then more than three laps. So it’s not purely a gamble but just what we thought was best and obviously wasn’t.”
However he admitted the soft compound is “a tyre I’ll probably stay away from” in today’s grand prix.
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