McLaren’s Race Strategy Leaves Lando Norris Disappointed

McLaren’s Race Strategy Leaves Lando Norris Disappointed
Credits: Imago

Lando Norris had a race to forget in Suzuka after McLaren’s strategy ruined all the hard work he put into qualifying. Norris was the quickest driver behind the Red Bulls and started the Japanese GP from P3 on the grid. Unfortunately, he ended the race in P5.

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The McLaren cars were already suffering from a tire degradation issue as pointed out by Oscar Piastri earlier, and on top of that, a miscalculated strategy by the Papayas put Norris behind the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, come the end of the race.

It’s a shame. It doesn’t feel great when you start third and go backwards. It feels like you are fighting a losing battle,” said the British driver to Sky Sports. While Leclerc pitted twice, Norris’ team decided to bring him in for one more stop just to hold George Russell off. This decision proved to be wrong in the long run, as Leclerc managed to get the better of the Briton.

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Piastri, too, had a very forgetful outing by his standards. The Melbourne-born driver started from P6 but crossed the line in P8, struggling to hold off Fernando Alonso and George Russell. Both McLaren drivers lost out on two places each at the end, meaning, the team lost out on valuable points.

In their bid to catch Ferrari in the standings, it was a huge blow for the Woking-based outfit. Currently, they are in P3 with 69 points, 51 behind the Maranell0-based outfit. Heading into the Chinese GP, the team will be looking to keep improving in order to break into the top 3 once again.

How are McLaren struggling despite improvement?

McLaren’s pace was considerably better at this year’s Japanese GP compared to 2023. They were three-tenths of a second faster in qualifying this season, but could not come close to matching last year’s double podium result.

This is because the progress they made came at a cost. The increased pace made the tires of the MCL38 vulnerable. The car is more prone to tire degradation at high speed, and this led to Lando Norris and Piastri having to work tirelessly to keep the tire temperature on check while trying to push to the limits.

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Their direct rivals Ferrari, on the other hand, worked hard over the winter break to make the SF-24 much kinder on the tires. Last year, degradation was their Achilles heel, but the drivers of the Scuderia are much more comfortable with tires in 2024.

McLaren has to improve on this front if they want to close the gap of Ferrari and Red Bull eventually. If not, occasional podiums on certain circuits could be their only sign of success in 2024.

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