Horner: McLaren lost Canadian GP win with ‘critical’ slick tyre call


Red Bull team boss Christian Horner believes McLaren missed a golden opportunity to win the Canadian Grand Prix due to Lando Norris switching to slicks a lap too late.

Norris had taken over the lead of the race from Mercedes’ George Russell on lap 21 and immediately managed to build a significant gap.

However, the race was reset following a safety car intervention caused by Williams’ Logan Sargeant.

Max Verstappen undercut Norris during the neutralization, but Horner argues that it was a later decision by the McLaren strategists that ultimately sealed their driver’s fate.

As the rain let up and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve began to dry, a crossover point emerged to allow for a switch from intermediates to slick tyres, a change that Verstappen undertook on lap 45.

But Norris stayed out on track for an additional two, which provided the McLaren driver with a 20-second buffer to pit and potentially cover his rival.

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Norris did just that, and the timing of his switch seemed promising. But while he returned to the track just ahead of Verstappen, he encountered a damp patch on which his cold tyres were unable to lay down the power, which compromised his traction and allowed Verstappen to move ahead.

Horner reckoned that if Norris had pitted just one lap earlier, before Verstappen's tyres reached their optimal temperature, the outcome could have been different.

"I thought we were in a much better window as the circuit dried out," commented the Red Bull chief.

"We were able to hold a consistent gap and then it was all about getting the crossover at the right time, because the first sector was pretty damp. And when you drive out of the pitlane, you lose a huge amount of the temperature.

"So, I felt like we timed that about right, going onto the medium tyre. And whilst Lando was able to capitalise enough to hit the 20-second mark, and it hovered around that, with each lap we did, the tyres were getting warmer and I was surprised they didn't cover after one lap.

"They left him for two and that was crucial as that gave Max another lap to generate the temperature.

“So when Lando did pit, he [Verstappen] had tyres that were in a window and was able to drive and pull out a three-second gap by sector one. So that timing was crucial."

Horner admitted that Norris’ pace in the first stint of the race, when he assumed the lead from Russell, did not bode well for Red Bull’s chances at that point.

But like in Miami last month, the safety car reshuffled the cards, but this time it was to Red Bull and Verstappen’s advantage.

“In the first stint, we looked very competitive at the beginning of the race, pushing George [Russell] very hard and pulled out seven seconds very quickly on the cars behind," he said. "So the wetter conditions we were set-up pretty well for.

"Then unfortunately, we just dropped a little back from George as the DRS opened, which then allowed Lando to come back as the track was drying out. It looked like the Mercedes was in more trouble, but we were struggling to get past and that gave Lando a free pass.

"At that point, it looked like McLaren was the favourite to walk away and win the race. Then pit stops came and we went onto another new set of inters.

"There was a safety car that neutralised everything and the adjustments we made, we were then able to get ourselves into a better position."

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