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Formula 1 Spanish GP

McLaren: Norris could have done nothing more to win F1 Spanish GP

Why McLaren says nothing more Lando Norris could have done to win F1’s Spanish Grand Prix

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 2nd position, arrives in Parc Ferme

Lando Norris may have been kicking himself for losing out in Formula 1’s Spanish Grand Prix, but the team reckons there was nothing more he could have done.

Norris was left frustrated with himself that, despite securing pole position and having what appeared to be the fastest car at Barcelona, he was beaten to the chequered flag by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

The Briton felt that with a better first corner, which saw him lose out to Max Verstappen and get trapped behind Mercedes’ George Russell early on where he lost critical time, the outcome of the race would have been totally different.

But McLaren thinks that what happened at Turn 1 was not Norris’s fault, and indeed it thinks the race was perfectly salvageable even at that point.

Instead, team principal Andrea Stella says that the superb getaway that Russell made to swoop from fourth to first at the first corner, was something that Norris had no control over.

“I think actually Lando's start wasn't very bad at all,” explained Stella. “It was a decent start, like he was almost one car ahead of Max.

“But the fact is that Russell got the double slipstream of Lando and Max. And, in corner one, I think Lando was just very wise, because it's one second and your race is gone. And that's not the way we want to race. We want to stay in the race.

“So I think from an opportunity point of view it [the start] was more of a detail. Okay, you can do an even better start, you would have been one metre ahead, but it's very, very marginal.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Details matter

McLaren and Norris have both talked in recent weeks about how details are now increasingly important in the fight with Red Bull, because small decisions can have huge implications when it comes to the fight for position.

Stella said that the Spanish GP proved his point, where factors like the long run down to Turn 1, and the opportunity that opened up for Russell because of the high-drag characteristics of current cars, had massive significance.

And although Norris was not helped by a slow 3.6-seconds final stop, compared to Verstappen’s 2.8s, Stella thinks it was not critical to the outcome.

“You have no margin in which you can compensate any little imprecision,” said Stella. “I would say that the main factor was that we couldn't defend the first position in Barcelona.

“This is not necessarily a surprise, because you have such a long run to corner one. Plus the cars run high downforce, that as soon as you gain a bit of slipstream, it makes you so much faster than the car ahead. This meant that Lando  was not in condition to defend his pole position.

“I actually appreciated his wise approach to stay out of trouble there, because the race we know was going to come to us. It was just the couple of positions lost at corner one and the time lost behind Russell, they were the two decisive factors.

“And the [slow final] pit stop, probably another one second. But in fairness, even with the one second, if we had been behind Verstappen at the start [and in front of Russell], I think we could have played our cards with good chances.”

Stella said that strategy wise, he felt his team played things perfectly, in sticking to its guns for a tyre offset against its rivals that it believed would pay out handsomely at the end.

“We were very surprised when we saw people go in on lap 16-17 because for me, that's a bit of self-inflicted pain at this circuit, no? The degradation is so high, overtaking is easy, so we thought this was going to bring us back in the race.

“If we hadn’t lost a little bit too long behind Russell at the start, the race would have come to us at the end of the 66 laps. So actually, I would like to praise the good work of our strategists, because somehow this is what we had in mind.”

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