Lando Norris, McLaren, Silverstone, 2024

Why “under construction” McLaren still celebrate third place after missing a win

Formula 1

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Since Lando Norris capitalised on a timely Safety Car appearance in Miami to take his first win, McLaren have missed five further shots at victory.

Team principal Andrea Stella regards these “near misses” are a kind “good news” as they show how much more competitive the team has become. “We didn’t have these kind of near-misses until 12 months ago.”

But he’s well aware the lost points are beginning to pile up. They could have beaten Max Verstappen to pole position at Imola and won there. Norris lost his advantage from pole position in Spain and tangled with Verstappen in Austria. Tactical calls have frustrated them too – the missed chance to pit in Canada and the wrong tyre choice for Norris last weekend.

Even so, the team has 295 points after 12 rounds, almost triple the 103 it had at this stage last year. Stella, who has been widely praised for the success he has achieved through his calm, rational approach to running McLaren, said the team must not overlook how well it has done while seeking the final improvements needed to realise their potential of becoming regular winners.

“We need to look at the positives,” he told media including RaceFans on Sunday at Silverstone. “We need to look at the fact that the team is in a condition to be frustrated today because we are P3 in the podium with the other driver P4 and once again the team that scored more points.”

Though Norris was visibly despondent at missing out on a potential home win, the team still celebrated its third and fourth places at Silverstone.”

“If we don’t start from the positives from the building side, we are going to be the ones that build and destroy,” Stella explained. “‘Build and destroy’ will stay always at the same level. So this is the responsibility for everyone.”

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The incorrect choice of tyre for Norris’ final stint was one of two moments in which McLaren potentially threw victory away last weekend. His team mate Oscar Piastri was breathing down his neck when they made their first pit stops, but McLaren’s decision to leave him out one lap longer instead of ‘double stacking’ their cars and service both compromised him badly.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Silverstone, 2024
The McLaren pit wall did not want to ‘double stack’ their cars
Stella admitted the team were reluctant to pit both drivers at once because it would cost Piastri time. “I think we were a little greedy that we didn’t want to accept that we would have lost time with the double stack,” he admitted. “Sometimes you just have to be patient and accept that you’re going to lose time but just do the right thing, rather than hoping that one lap more is not going to cost that much.

“Especially when the rain was pretty steady so it’s not like he’s going to face easier conditions staying out one more lap. I think Oscar would have been in a really strong position today at least as strong as Lando in terms of opportunities to win.”

Stella said McLaren should have put more weight on their drivers telling them the time to fit intermediates had arrived. “This slick-to-intermediate [call], definitely in that case the driver knows better than us in a way what is going on.”

“With Lando I think it was the right time and we should have just forced Oscar, to say like, ‘sorry mate it’s going to be double stack’.”

Piastri took the medium tyres Norris should have opted for in the final stint and was flying over the final laps. If Norris had tackled the final stint with Piastri’s pace, instead of losing second to Verstappen he could have challenged Lewis Hamilton for victory.

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Lando Norris, McLaren, Miami International Autodrome, 2024
Five chances to win have been missed since Miami triumph
The suddenness with which McLaren emerged as contenders for race wins and potentially even a championship appeared to catch them by surprise. They were over half a minute away from victory at some of the early rounds in the year. Asked three weeks before his first win when he thought McLaren might score victory, Norris replied: “Not any time soon, that’s for sure.”

While the upgrade introduced in Miami clearly propelled McLaren among the front-runners, Stella sees them as being alongside Red Bull, and now the resurgent Mercedes, rather than clearly ahead of them.

“There’s this narrative around that McLaren has the best car,” he said. “I think we made good use of the car – so I would like to emphasise the good work of the people that prepare the car, like we come to practice sessions and the car performs well and we build well through the weekend.

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“But we saw today that not necessarily we have the fastest car because in the first stint where things were pretty regular, the Mercedes, they were going. So, I think we you know, it’s part of the positives. I think the team are working very well. When you race for the front positions, it just becomes much more visible when you still have some work to do.”

Max Verstappen, Oscar Piastri, Lewis Hamilton, Silverstone, 2024
McLaren can’t afford more mistakes in this company
Stella believes his team are still coming up to full strength against the two teams which have won every championship for the last 14 years. He says the way to catch them is through stability and patiently eliminating the errors which have dogged them in recent races.

“While Lando and Oscar don’t have responsibility in some of the calls today, we call ‘missed opportunities’, we all, drivers included, have the responsibility to keep building,” he said on Sunday.

“When you have days in which you have a missed opportunity it’s the best opportunity to keep building. Because we are racing against teams that have won championships and championships and they are pretty stable in terms of the people that are them. They are even familiar with this kind of racing at the top in changeable conditions and so on.

“From this point of view, we are more of a ‘under construction’ site. And we take these near-misses, the frustration will go very rapidly. But the opportunity will come soon so we need to be ready.”

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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 “Why “under construction” McLaren still celebrate third place after missing a win”

  1. They might still have under construction signage up but to extend the analogy, the building is constructed and just needs a paint and final trim. The opportunity isn’t coming soon, the opportunity is now, and they’ve let it slip through their fingers.

    1. @Tristan
      That’s it really. Mercedes have updates coming. If some of those are any good, then boom, they’re ahead. RBR might find a fix over summer and boom, they’re ahead. Only thing I’m pretty sure of is Ferrari will continue to lag behind. The point is, at any moment the competitiveness of McLaren can be over. They have to be on it right now.

  2. Fact is, Mclaren has had the car to race at the very top and even win for the last 6 or 7 races and won once.

    Mercedes is better now but still isn’t even as competitive as Mclaren (definitely not on Spain and Austria) and already won twice.

    It’s about time they took this losses to heart instead of shrugging them off and not do a thing about it because they hope “one they the things will click” and they’ll win again. And before they realize the season is over and their only win was that lucky one in Miami in which Norris was put in a situation that was nearly impossible to lose.

    1. Yep, opportunities to race for wins are rare. If McLaren is content to let them slip away, others will gladly collect the trophies.

    2. I think Lando has taken those losses to heart.
      He’s learning though that it genuinely takes more than a quick car to win.
      The tiniest mistakes against the level of competition that Red Bull and Mercedes bring and all of a sudden the race win disappears.

  3. If only Norris hadn’t overshot his pit area, he would have come out level with Hamilton. The two would have battled for the advantage, taking the life out of their new tires, allowing Verstappen to catch them both.

    1. Norris said even if he came out in front of Lewis, Lewis would have won. The McLaren just was not good on softs whereas the Mercedes was. And of course Lewis has ways been very good at keeping his tyres alive

      1. That makes his tyre choice even worse then.
        But his engineer pushed him to do it with his choice of words, he made it look as if going with medium tyres they would be giving up the fight with Hamilton to focus on Max behind.

        1. Yes, good point, for us the mediums seemed the best choice, since it was rumored the softs wouldn’t last 15 laps, and mclaren had this opportunity, but the way he phrased it to norris was confusing; I think piastri’s engineer did a much better job with it.

  4. STOP. GIFTING. YOUR. RIVALS. THE. UNDERCUT. IT. IS. THAT. BLOOMING. SIMPLE!

  5. Paul (@frankjaeger)
    11th July 2024, 21:03

    It is total crap that Mclaren have thrown away 5 wins this year. Realistically, RB/Max have always had the upper hand in pace. There’s been 3 weekends MAX that Mclaren have had a genuine chance. So funny how people on the internet are sensationalising Mclaren supposedly throwing away a whole host of wins. They’ve been worthy of 2nd best team a lot in the past year or 2, but only now – and a handful of races over the past 3 years – have they genuinely had a realistic shot at winning – not just leading the race for 10 laps, but winning.

    1. Only races i’m positive they may have let it slip away were Canada, Austria and now Britain.

      In Canada Norris was leading the race and they missed the call to pit on VSC. He lost the lead but Max was much faster on the last leg of the race, probably would’ve gone past Norris anyway.

      Austria Norris could’ve done a better job to pass Max, and Britain he was leading the race and took a lap too long to get rid of the intermediates, losing track position and putting himself under pressure to attack.

      Imola definitely not and Spain, again, he should have done a better job, and that’s the most it can be said about it.

      1. Stephen Taylor
        11th July 2024, 21:52

        Your information is not correct . Norris was catching Verstappen towards the end in Canada and Merc were catching both Verstappen and Norris.

        1. That not what the data posted on this very site says. From the green flag on lap 55 to the end of the race Max was consistenly faster and opened a gap of nearly 4 seconds.

          And Mercedes was on newer tyres it’s bizarre of you to even mention them.

          Next time you do us a favor provide the data before calling others wrong.

          1. Stephen Taylor
            11th July 2024, 22:12

            Lando pegged the gap towards the end. He would’ve won with a correct pit call. Mark Hughes confirmed this.

          2. He was faster than Max in 4 laps out of 15.
            The last lap of this 4 in which he was faster than Max was lap 67.

            So, no, he was not faster than Max on the last laps of the race, he was not catching Max, in fact, he was dropping off quicker than Max on the last 3 laps.

            Would he be able to hold Max behind after a SC? We’ll never know, but i doubt he would be able to build a breather like Max did.

  6. Stephen Taylor
    11th July 2024, 22:09

    McLaren still has a whiff of midfield mentality about it. They lack ruthlesssness at the moment McLaren could have won every race from Miami onwards as Lando was close in Imola both drivers were slightly untidy in Monte Carlo qualifying . Then a poor start for Lando small tactical error cost them in Spain . Lando’s poor racecraft and the collison with Max cost him Austria and the failure to double stack and a poor decision on Lando’s side of the garage cost them them in Britain. I really believe McLaren should give serious consideration to replacing Will Joseph as race engineer to Lando Norris . The standard communication in my opinion between Tom Stallard and Piastri is in a different league and much better than the other side of the garage

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