Why “under construction” McLaren still celebrates third place after missing a win · RaceFans

Why “under construction” McLaren still celebrates third place after missing a win · RaceFans

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” as a kind of “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 tire 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 on 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 with the positives from the building side, we are going to be the ones that build and destroy,” Stella explained. “’Build and destroy’ will always stay at the same level. So this is the responsibility of 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.

The McLaren pit wall didn’t 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 stacked’.”

Piastri took the medium tires 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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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 in some of the early rounds of 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 over the weekend.

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“But we saw today that we not necessarily 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.”

McLaren can’t afford more mistakes in this company

Stella believes his team are still coming up to full strength against the two teams that 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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