Stella stands by McLaren strategy calls for Norris in Japanese GP


McLaren team boss Andrea Stella conceded that the team’s aggressive strategy call for Lando Norris in the Japanese GP did not work out as planned, but the Italian nevertheless defended his pitwall’s decisions.

McLaren opted for an aggressive two-stop strategy that targeted a podium finish when it brought in Norris, who had qualified third, after just eleven laps and swapped the Briton’s soft tyres for a set of hards.

The move was intended to prevent a Ferrari undercut, but McLaren was eventually caught out, not only be the Scuderia’s superior pace that carried Carlos Sainz to third at the checkered flag but also by the Italian outfit’s unexpected decision to pit Charles Leclerc only once.

The Monegasque was brought for in at the race’s half-way mark on lap 26, with Norris pitting on exactly the same lap, which put him behind both Ferraris and on course for a fifth-place finish.

After the race, Norris questioned the timing of his second stop, suggesting that a longer stint on his first set of hards would have perhaps yielded a better result.

But Stella defended his team’s strategy. The Italian acknowledged that Ferrari's stronger race pace ultimately hampered their plans but maintained that the two-stop strategy was the best option given the information they had at the time.

“I think we were a little out of options because when we stopped Lando at the start, we kind of knew that Ferrari were ready to go to undercut us,” Stella explained.

“So we wanted to play preventatively. We had two sets of hard, so we could stop early, and in stopping Lando early we wanted to see like, can we go for the podium? And we even tried to see can we go for it to beat Perez?


“I thought it was worthwhile trying that. Ultimately, this put us on a race which might have been slightly unpreferred from overall time [of the race] point of view, but I think it was very worthwhile trying.

“So on Lando's side we are happy that we wanted to try finishing on the podium.”

Stella elaborated on the timing of Norris’ second stop which was questioned by the Briton, admitting the calls were made amid a “complex” set of circumstances.

“The timing of the second stop was forced by Leclerc,” he said. “Also there was Carlos approaching Lando. So Carlos would have overtaken Lando and once Carlos overtakes Lando, Lando loses time, and then he ends up behind Hamilton and Russell.

“Because when you race so many cars, you have to consider multiple implications. It's not like you're racing only one car.

“I'm not sure how fun it is for spectators, but for us, it makes the race quite complex in terms of who you are actually fighting.”

On the other side of the McLaren garage, Oscar Piastri who qualified P6 was on course for a seventh-place finish when a mistake on the penultimate lap saw the Aussie lose a spot to the Mercedes of George Russell.

“With Oscar, I don't think there were many different options at all today,” he said. “If we look at the final classification, it goes in the order of car competitiveness. I think just a shame that with Oscar, with the final lock up, we lost the position to Russell.

“Otherwise, we would have finished ahead of Mercedes and that, like I say, could pretty much be the finishing order - considering that Fernando [Alonso] he has done a very good job like he normally does, so he's a little special in that respect, and I think alters a little bit the competitiveness of the car.”

“We are happy. We are [the] third-best scoring team once again, consolidating the third position in the championship. That's a positive outcome.”

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