McLaren boss explains ‘aggressive’ strategy that cost Norris Australian GP second-place

McLaren secured their best result of the season so far at the Australian GP with Lando Norris in third and Oscar Piastri in fourth

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McLaren boss Andrea Stella backed the team’s call to pit Oscar Piastri before lead driver Lando Norris at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix, which the Brit believes cost him second place.

Charles Leclerc, who went on to claim second and Ferrari’s first 1-2 since the 2022 Bahrain GP behind Carlos Sainz, followed Piastri into the pits and jumped the McLaren pair while Piastri struggled to control his tyre degradation around the Albert Park Circuit.

Piastri had emerged from his pitstop ahead of Norris but McLaren opted to switch the drivers meaning the Australian missed out on becoming the first-ever home driver to score a podium in Melbourne, and Stella was asked whether second-place was possible for the team.

“It’s possible, it’s possible,” Stella told the media. “That was very, very early in the race with a high degree of uncertainty as to the behaviour of the hard tyres. And in fact, we saw that there were certainly some quick cars that didn’t look quick at all because they were not working well with the tyres – one is the Red Bull of Perez.

“We actually went for this aggressive strategy in trying to pass Leclerc with Oscar. But Leclerc decided that it was a good idea as well, potentially because of listening to our radio.”

“This also meant that Leclerc and Oscar would have gone below two cars fighting each other.”

Stella: We couldn’t risk Lando

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella at the 2023 Belgian GP | McLaren F1 team

While Norris could’ve beaten Leclerc, there was no way he could touch the lead Ferrari of Sainz, who must only be wishing he didn’t think to remove his appendix earlier.

However, the retirement of race favourite Max Verstappen was an extreme rarity, and Norris missed the chance to secure his first-ever grand prix win, setting an unwanted record in the process.

Norris‘ 14th career podium puts him ahead of Nick Heidfeld on the most trips to the rostrum – including seven times as runner-up – without taking victory, but Stella added McLaren wanted to consolidate the Brits’ strong position in Melbourne and gamble on Piastri.

“With Lando in a strong position, we thought that would that was an unnecessary risk,” Stella said. “We would’ve taken risk with Oscar knowing that if tyre degrades, ultimately the race is going to come to you at the end and you will recover the position that you may lose on lap eight, but it’s lap eight of 58. There’s another 50 laps.

“I think Leclerc finished ahead of Lando because they have a faster car at the moment. And the positive news is that this faster car is not faster by much at all. We were very close.

“It’s encouraging for Japan in which some of the characteristics that make Australia good for us take another step, more higher ratio of medium high speed compared to low speed.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, and previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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