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Formula 1 Spanish GP

McLaren needs to “provoke” itself in chase for more F1 wins

The Canadian GP review highlighted some small key changes McLaren must make in approach to Formula 1 races

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris says McLaren has learned it needs to “provoke” itself more if it is to avoid the small mistakes that have cost it victories in recent Formula 1 races.

The Briton is coming off the back of an especially frustrating Canadian Grand Prix where two decisions around pitstops – one under safety car conditions and one not – meant a shot at victory slipped through his grasp.

But McLaren is also facing up to the fact that other key calls or small performance improvements at Imola and Monaco could have swung things more in its favour rather than handing the opportunity to rivals.

Speaking ahead of the Spanish GP, Norris said that both he and McLaren had conducted a deep dive into the events of Montreal and have agreed on some key changes in their approach.

And front and centre of that is in being better prepared for unforeseen circumstances, with team and drivers challenging each other even more to ensure that there was no room for error.

“We reviewed it a lot. The team reviewed it. I reviewed it,” said Norris about the Canadian GP.

“We listened to radios, and all those kinds of things.

“There was nothing like, ‘Oh, we've clearly messed up. We've done something wrong’. But it [not stopping when the safety car came out] was still a tricky decision.

“We simply should have been a bit little bit more prepared. I should have simply had the 'if safety car [comes out] box' call, because, at the same time, from my side, I don't know how much rain there is going to be. I'm getting told there's rain, and so I'm judging a lot of my feelings and decisions off what the team are telling me.

“So, it's a little bit from their side, a little bit from my side, in provoking or giving more feedback - those kind of things.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, passes Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, passes Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Norris feels that McLaren does not need to do things dramatically different. Instead, he feels that with such tiny margins separating teams now, it is the details that are critical – and it is the small things that the squad has to tidy up.

“It's not big changes,” he said. “It's not like you have to change anything drastically. It's just one more question, or it's just one more little decision that we've got to kind of make.

“It's very small things, but they just have very big consequences, like we saw. Really, I'm happy with everyone. I'm happy with the team and their work ethic and how they're trying to improve on all these areas.

“I'm confident we'll just go and do another weekend and we'll make better decisions. It's as simple as that."

Norris’ belief is echoed by team-mate Oscar Piastri, who suggests that McLaren is now in a position in the field where any tiny error is punished and exposed.

“There's more pressure, you're under the spotlight more, and your mistakes cost a bit more,” said the Australian.

“You're fighting against teams that have, certainly in Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes' case, been at the front for decades basically. For us it's been a bit of a more recent return to the front. So, I guess in some ways we are less experienced than some others around that.

“I guess we're kind of still in some ways, not learning to be back at the front, but [in a situation where] you can't make any mistakes. You can't give any little pocket of opportunity to anybody because there's people there to take it and it does cost you.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

And while Norris accepts there is some annoyance at wins slipping through its fingers recently, he also says the team has to remember how far it has come over the past 12 months.

“I think you have to look at the positives, because we're still fresh off consecutive bad seasons,” he said.

“WIe definitely have to remind ourselves of how bad it's been and the progress we've made. It's easy to forget that very quickly.

“That's good motivation for everyone, the knowledge of how bad we were, versus where we are now. That's encouraging for everyone in the team.

“But at the same time, everything is relative, whether you're fighting for first or 10th, when you have knowledge of you could have made better decisions and you could have potentially won a race. And a win means even more.

“If it's like when you're fighting for 10th and it might be for ninth, then you're like, ‘Okay, it's one or two points’. But when it's second and you think ‘I should have won a race’ it hurts pretty more.”

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