McLaren gives away Silverstone victory four times?! Strategy disaster in Formula 1 analysis

The ghosts of Russia 2021 are calling again. Silverstone did nothing to disprove the theory that McLaren’s Formula 1 strategists are not fit enough to fight for victories against Red Bull or Mercedes. Quite the opposite. Although Lando Norris has already pulled off some terrible rain strategies, the British GP went one better. The team had to regretfully identify four moments after the race as points where they threw away the victory. The analysis of Motorsport-Magazin.com rolls it up.

1st mistake: Oscar Piastri has to continue with slicks in the rain

Actually, both McLaren in the race for victory. As in Canada, the MCL38 showed strong tire management in cool mixed conditions. With rain looming, everyone waited for medium after the start. Many cars hit the front axle too hard. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen admitted after the race that they had started with too few front wings anyway and had too much understeer in the car.

When drizzle arrived on lap 15, the McLaren tires were in better condition. The extra grip catapulted Norris and Oscar Piastri past Verstappen, past both Mercedes, and into a one-two lead, as the drizzle was not enough to switch to intermediates. Only a second shower from lap 26 was strong enough to do so.

Only Verstappen and Carlos Sainz immediately understood what was going on. At McLaren and Mercedes, the drivers were tempted to do another lap, perhaps also because of the light shower that had just taken place.

McLaren admits mistake: pit stop math is wrong

At McLaren, a serious error in thinking multiplied the penalty paid for the extra lap. “We were too greedy and didn’t want to accept that we would lose time with a double stop,” said team boss Andrea Stella. Piastri would have had to wait behind Norris in the pits and would almost certainly have lost second place to Hamilton. Race engineer Tom Stallard explained this situation to the Australian over the radio. Because neither of them dared to stop on lap 26, but Norris wanted to on lap 27, Piastri had to stay out.

Job McLaren #81
Round 24
Wellington Tom Stallard: “Class 1 in the pits. Start of 30 minutes of rain.”
Woodcote Piastri: “Seems a bit stronger on the track too.”
hangar Stallard: “Still Class 1 in the pit lane. Another car drives through.”
Round 25
Wellington Stallard: “Ricciardo is losing some time, he is half a lap away.”
Copse Stallard: “Oscar, we think the rain is going to get heavier.”
hangar Piastri: “Yes, it’s too early for Inters.”
Round 26
begin Stallard: “Ricciardo now 1.5 seconds above his delta.”
Woodcote Piastri: “Just before Inters.”
Copse Stallard: “Oscar, should we stop if Lando stays outside?”
Maggott’s Piastri: “Yes.”
hangar Piastri: “It’s hard to say. I think we have to keep going.”
Vail Stallard: “Rain is identical in the box.”
Round 27
begin Stallard: “Verstappen stops.”
Wellington Stallard: “Ricciardo loses more time in Turn 9 and the S-curves.”
Woodcote Stallard: “Class 1.5 in the box.”
Piastri: “Let me know if they are faster.”
hangar Stallard: “Okay, Verstappen is faster.”
Piastri: “How much? I’m losing time behind Lando.”
Stowe Stallard: “Lando stop, I recommend staying out.”
Piastri: “Confirm.”

Instead of just five seconds during the double stop, Piastri lost everything. Especially in the wet middle sector. Verstappen, who had timed lap 26 perfectly, had already gained over five seconds in one lap on Mercedes and Norris. And Piastri? Before the stop, he was second, ten seconds ahead of Verstappen. Four laps later, at the end of the rotation, he was sixth, ten seconds behind the Red Bull. 20 seconds wasted.

Apparently it didn’t make sense to McLaren that the track would get wetter even if the drizzle was constant. “With the constant rain, it wasn’t as if he would have had easier conditions,” Stella can only admit in retrospect. “We should have simply forced Oscar and said: Sorry, double stop.”

2nd mistake: Lando Norris is stopped too late

Now McLaren only had Norris at the front of the race. But he had saved the lead into the intermediate phase. The leading group watched each other closely in wet conditions for a good ten laps. Then things opened up. This time Hamilton was the first man in the pits. Verstappen followed him. The communication reads as exemplary. Minimal, efficient exchange of information.

Job McLaren #4
Round 35
Wellington Joseph: “Remember, they only have soft or hard.
We have medium if we want it.”
Woodcote Norris: “It’s still raining heavily.”
Round 36
hangar Joseph: “Class half in the box, that’s less, and the sun is coming.”
Round 37
Wellington Joseph: “Lando, what do you think soft vs. medium?”
Norris: “Difficult.”
Copse Norris: “You have to put the soft on if we want to cover this.”
hangar Norris: “Yes, it’s getting dry in places.”
Round 38
Wellington Joseph: “No more rain expected. After this 14th.
We think soft would be okay.”
Woodcote Norris: “Yes, I think it must be soft. Still quite wet.”
Round 39
begin Joseph: “Hamilton, stop Red Bull.”
Abbey Norris: “How is the soft, who’s driving?”
Wellington Joseph: “On the out lap the soft doesn’t look any faster.
Oscar stops for medium.”
Woodcote Norris: “Yeah. Box. Box.”
Joseph: “Verstappen on Hard.”
Copse Norris: “We have to stop. The soft is better. Or any slick.”
Maggott’s Joseph: “We can cover people like Verstappen with Medium.
Or with soft people like Hamilton.”
Chapel Norris: “Hamilton…I think Hamilton.
Or do you think medium. I don’t care.”
hangar Joseph: “We’ll take soft.”

In fact, this was also the case with a McLaren pairing. Not with Norris and Joseph. There are several problems to be addressed. Not least of all, however, is an endless discussion about the right tyre. We will come back to the final choice of soft tyres in a moment. But first of all, it should be noted that for Hamilton and Verstappen, the tyre was a decision made by the pits. When asked, Piastri was immediately clear about what he wanted.

Job McLaren #81
Round 37
begin Stallard: “Almost past the box.”
Piastri: “Starts to dry quickly.”
Wellington Piastri: “Could be like screening rounds.”
Copse Stallard: “Rain has stopped.”
hangar Stallard: “Competitors don’t have medium. We think medium is the best tire.
15 laps left…”
Piastri: “Yes, yes, it’s the best.”
Round 38
begin Piastri: “We just have to catch the round.”
Woodcote Piastri: “It’s very close to slicks.”
Stallard: “Lap times very close to the crossover, nobody is stopping yet.”
hangar Stallard: “Hamilton stops.”
Piastri: “I think box, I think box.”
Stowe Stallard: “Box, box.”

Verstappen and Piastri also immediately remembered the sighting laps on the starting grid, where the weather conditions were similar. Norris hesitated, more and more information flowed. During the one lap of waiting, Hamilton passed by, waving happily, and took the lead.

McLaren admits mistakes: We must not overtax the drivers

“In these conditions, we wanted to discuss the conditions with Lando,” says Stella. He himself knows that the scope was a mistake: “We have the opportunity to make this decision. We have more information, more people. The responsibility for choosing soft instead of medium lies with the team. And that would have been the better choice. That is 100 percent my responsibility on the pit wall. The driver gives his input. The pit wall should have said we’re going with medium.”

3. Mistake: Lando Norris wants (?) – and gets – soft tires

This brings us to the next mistake. All that triggered the one-and-a-half lap radio debate between Norris and Joseph was the completely wrong decision to go for soft. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner’s head is spinning. His driver was given hard tires without being asked because it was self-explanatory for Red Bull: “Unfathomable. McLaren was the only team with the new medium. And they don’t drive with it… That was the perfect tire.”

Only McLaren had saved two sets of medium tires per driver. With 15 laps to go, they were perfect. In the wet, the hard tires were not so easy to get up to temperature. But the soft tires would not last 15 laps. So Verstappen got the hard tires. “We saw in the first stint that those who had them were rubbish,” says Horner. Within seven laps, Esteban Ocon and Zhou Guanyu had broken down on them at the start. The same thing happened again for Norris. He could neither attack Hamilton nor defend second place against Verstappen.

McLaren admits mistakes: Shouldn’t have looked at Lewis Hamilton

But Piastri chose the medium correctly. Why not Norris? After Lewis Hamilton’s stop, a kind of target fixation set in in the Norris garage: when you focus so much on one object that everything else blurs. “Lewis on the soft is one of the disturbing factors for our decision,” says Stella. “The medium would be faster in the end. But how much do you lose in the first three laps? And how big is the risk of losing the car on a wet patch?

“We were too influenced by Lewis,” admits Stella. Part of the problem is that Hamilton reminded everyone at Silverstone: he is the undisputed king of tyre conservation. At Silverstone, this ability is massively rewarded in high-speed corners. And Hamilton delivered a lesson in tyre conservation. It was only on the last lap that the soft tyres began to give way.

It’s quite possible that no other driver could have done that. Stella, who openly acknowledges this, is not even sure that Norris would have won with medium: “We could have been stuck in his gearbox, but overtaking is a different story.”

4th mistake: Lando Norris is stopped too slowly

There was another reason why McLaren left Norris out for so long. They firmly believed that being reactive would be enough. That the track at the crossover point would not be so fast straight away that the slick on the out lap would be faster than the intermediate. And Norris was two seconds ahead before the changeover sequence on lap 37.

“We thought that if we did another lap we would keep the lead,” said Stella. Norris only overshot his position in the wet pit lane. The mechanics had to move up and the stop lasted 3.77 seconds. 0.78 longer than Hamilton’s change. “That’s enough, but it doesn’t guarantee that he will stay in front in turns 3 and 4,” Stella added.

Because looking back, the numbers show that as soon as Hamilton made it out of the wet pit lane, he was immediately faster than Norris on the soft tyres. In the middle sector he had already gained one and a half seconds. In the best case scenario, Norris would have come out of the pits next to Hamilton – in the wet part. Staying ahead there is almost impossible.

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