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How McLaren Lost The F1 British Grand Prix

f1 grand prix of great britain
How McLaren Lost The F1 British Grand Prix Vince Mignott/MB Media - Getty Images

McLaren had its drivers first and second during the damp stages of Sunday’s F1 British Grand Prix but left with a three-four finish, with Lando Norris collecting a trophy, and Oscar Piastri fourth.

But errors at crucial stages of the grand prix cost McLaren the chance of a stronger result, and potentially the victory.

At his second pit stop Norris overshot his pit box, costing him a couple of seconds, as the pit crew had to shuffle further forwards to undertake the tire change. It meant he emerged behind Hamilton, and without the mistake it would have been extremely close on pit exit. But McLaren also reacted to Hamilton choosing the Soft tire for the final stint by also equipping Norris with a Soft tire at his pit stop the next lap. McLaren – unlike Mercedes – had available a new set of Mediums, but went for the Soft. Norris was in little doubt the call was wrong.

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“We threw it away in the final stop,” Norris said. “I think even if I boxed on the perfect lap, our decision to go on to the Softs was the wrong one. I think Lewis still would have won no matter what. So, especially here, pretty disappointing.”

McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella reckoned Norris would have got close to Hamilton if he was on Mediums, rather than Softs, but acknowledged that “Lewis managed to keep the tires in good shape, and I think we could have got in the gearbox of Lewis, but overtaking is a slightly different matter.”

Piastri was on the tail of Norris as the rain intensified mid-race but while Norris dived into the pits, McLaren kept Piastri out rather than opting for a double stop. Stacking Piastri behind Norris would have cost the Australian three or four seconds, but as the rain battered down he slithered around and lost 15 seconds during his in-lap on slicks. Piastri dropped down to sixth place but recovered to fourth spot, only 12 seconds behind Hamilton, after displaying strong pace during the final stint on slick tires.

“You've got two cars, one-two, separated by half a second with rain coming down, I don't think it gets any harder than that,” Piastri said, in terms of making the decision. “I think clearly some things we need to review, I think double stacking would have been the better call but hindsight's a wonderful thing.”

But Piastri “knew it was the wrong call basically instantly” during the early stages of his slow in-lap, and Stella conceded that “Oscar would have been in a really strong position today, like at least as strong as Lando, in terms of opportunities to win the race”, without the decision to stay out earlier in the race.

To its credit McLaren has now long had a fast car – capable of winning races at a breadth of venues – but that it has only one victory, and that third and fourth is regarded as a disappointing outcome, shows that operationally it is still playing catch-up.

“I think the team are working very well and when you race for the front positions it just becomes much more visible when you still have some work to do,” Stella accepted.