McLaren’s Lando Norris has revealed that there are valuable lessons to be learned from yesterday’s cruel ending at 2021 Russian Grand Prix, which saw rain snatch a maiden F1 victory from Norris’ grasps.
Norris made a great start from his maiden pole position in F1 after topping a wet Qualifying on Saturday, only to concede the lead to Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz following a lock-up at Turn Two but was able to regain the lead on Lap 13.
From that moment onwards, Norris looked in control of victory as he fended off a fast-charging Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages, until a heavy rain shower drenched the circuit in the final eight laps with Norris making the wrong strategic call to stay out on slick tyres as Hamilton pitted and went on to win. .
Reflecting on why he chose not to pit, Norris said: “Right at the end when the rain started, we made the call not to box and that cost us everything.
“We made the decision that was right at the time for the conditions at the time. It was my call, along with the information from the team, and together we need to review what we could’ve done better.”
Adding that he “felt comfortable with the pace and car” throughout the race in what had been a “strong” weekend, Norris confessed to feeling that the loss of victory was “incredibly disappointing” but has vowed that “there are a lot of positives we can take, and now we need to analyse, reset and bounce back in Turkey.”
Norris’ teammate, Daniel Ricciardo meanwhile described his race as “eventful” in a rarely entertaining Russian GP weekend, having got stuck in a DRS train led by Williams’ George Russell and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in the first stint before making his first stop on Lap 23.
The Aussie however admitted to struggling towards the end on his hard tyres so was sort of glad that the rain arrived when it did, despite conditions feeling “sketchy” after running wide at Turn Seven on Lap 47 which cost him position to Max Verstappen who went on to finish second.
Ricciardo eventually finished fourth after missing out on the podium by just three seconds but described the finish as “a solid result” without any damage given the “tricky conditions” in the last few laps.
McLaren Team Principal, Andreas Seidl echoed Norris and Ricciardo’s “disappointed” feelings after seeing a chance to claim a second consecutive victory snatched away in dramatically heartbreaking fashion.
Seidl therefore noted that most of their post-race analysis in the coming days will centre on the decision to not overrule Norris and pit him for slicks after making “tricky calls”, although he has vowed that the team will “learn from it and come back stronger.”
The 45 year-old though was full of pride in the performances of both drivers this weekend, as he said: “On the positive side, both Lando, Daniel and the whole team put in strong performances all weekend, which is highly encouraging going into the last third of the season.”
McLaren CEO, Zak Brown however was in Long Beach, California, USA for the 2021 IndyCar season finale but posted a tweet, stating that he felt that yesterday’s race hurt after the late drama.
— Zak Brown (@ZBrownCEO) September 26, 2021
Across in IndyCar, McLaren endured further misery as Pato O’Ward’s title challenge ended in cruel fashion after he retired with a broken driveshaft, following damage sustained in an opening lap collision with Ed Jones.