McLaren on choice to use hards: “Last-minute change to soft would have been an operational problem”

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Photo credit: McLaren Racing

When the Virtual Safety Car was deployed after Kevin Magnussen’s engine gave out in the last quarter of the British Grand Prix, many teams went immediately to their strategy team to ask what tyre their drivers should switch to in order to make the most of the rest of the Grand Prix. The answer was simple, they should switch to soft tyres and treat the race as a sprint to the finish.

Well, McLaren thought otherwise.

They made the bold move to switch their drivers, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, to hard tyres, in order to get them warmed up and focus on staying in the podium places.

While Piastri was unlucky with the VSC turning into a full Safety Car and losing out to Lewis Hamilton because he pitted before the neutralisation of the Grand Prix to retrieve Magnussen’s car, Lando Norris held his nerve, finishing in an incredible second place.

After the race, McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella explained that it was all calculated, in order to keep the cars in the places that they were in, and to ensure that the pit crew were well informed and focused on making the fast pit stop instead of being delayed because of an impulsive strategy change.

“Under the Virtual Safety Car, we were happy to go on hard tyres because it wouldn’t have been a problem in terms of warm up. But then the Virtual Safety Car was converted into a Safety Car when we were pitting, and everything was [ready] at the pitstop to put hard tyres on.

“A last-minute change to soft would have been an operational problem. If you have the pit crew ready with the hard tyres, and you make a call for soft tyres, it means that the guys that need to pick the tyres would have to rush in the garage, remove the blankets, and bring the tyres back. It can create quite a bit of a situation, and it could have delayed the pitstop.”

Photo credit: McLaren Racing

Stella continued to justify the choice outlining the pros of the tyre warmup and saying that the Silverstone Circuit has points where temperature can be generated faster than at other venues:

“We thought that this is not one of those situations in which the hard tyres have a massive difference from a warm-up point of view to the soft. If you can manage the first four corners, and then you go through corner nine, you start to generate a decent amount of temperature. So we kept the decision simple.

“We didn’t want to change the allocation of tyres at the pitstop because this could have meant a significant delay. And, accepting that it could have cost us at the restart maybe one position, that was the most sensible thing to do.”

McLaren easily had their best weekend of the season so far, with a podium from Lando Norris and a brilliant P4 from Oscar Piastri, which could’ve been a double podium with a bit more luck. They are now P5 in the Constructors’ Championship, 12 points ahead of Alpine.