McLaren “still not in a position where we can gain the victory out of outright performance”, says Andrea Stella following F1 Canadian GP

Photo Credit: McLaren Racing
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It’s a double top five finish for McLaren in Canada, a great haul of points that leaves the Woking-based team in P3 in the Constructors’ Championship, only 40 points behind Ferrari.

However, in spite of the very positive result, there’s still room for regret, as Norris led a number of laps, even achieving a 11.4s lead over Verstappen by lap 25 as he passed the Dutchman and Russell to take the lead.

McLaren’s Team Principal Andrea Stella talked about his mixed feelings following the Canadian round, opening with one of the turning points of the race: the ill-timed safety car issued after Logan Sargeant’s crash.

It not only cost Norris his great gap, but it also forced him to pit for fresh inters a lap after all the other front runners had come in. The 24-year-old just missed the pit entry when the pace car was deployed, and he spent a while lap behind it.

He rejoined in P3, behind Russell and Verstappen.

“We took a quick look, it looks like it was one and a half seconds from the time actually when you needed to turn or you were going straight.

“In hindsight, we could have told the driver in case of safety car, pit, so, he would have just reacted instinctively to just pit, but we were monitoring the intensity of the rain.

“This intensity in the last few minutes was kind of reducing. So, we didn’t want to pit unnecessarily for a new set of inters when this set of inters could have been good enough in case of a very light rain.

“I think it was much easier for the car behind to do the opposite, for instance, as Lando.”

When Norris passed Russell for the lead on lap 21, he proceeded to pull out a gap of 8s over Verstappen four laps later before the Dutchman had to slow to avoid Logan Sargeant who crashed out.

“I think that’s a little bit unlucky, not only with the timing of when the safety car was deployed with respect to Lando’s position on track, but also the time of the safety car in the race, because at that time, Lando was by far the fastest car around the track.”

In the opening 10 laps, Norris dropped 10s away from Russell and Verstappen as he managed his tyres carefully in anticipation of a long stint. With Piastri in P4, McLaren had solid track position and pace over Alonso, so they could manage things carefully.

It paid off handsomely before the safety car intervened.

“Well, I think we knew that it would have not been easy to make it to the rain. We expected around lap 30 initially.

“It would have been difficult for the intermediate tyres to survive that long. So, because we had no pressure, we started to save the tyres very, very early.

“Even when it kind of wasn’t necessary trying to find wet patches to make sure that the tyres stayed in good condition for when the track would have been more challenging.

“So, I think there’s no magic. It’s just the position we were in in the first stint meant that we could apply this strategy with no loss because we didn’t have pressure from behind.”

While it’s not a completely joyous race for McLaren, it has shown how far they’ve come over the last 12 months. They’re now regular podium and victory contenders, a far cry from the struggles to get out of Q1 and score points this time last year.

However, Stella believes they are not quite able to go for victories on outright and pure performance just yet, even if Norris was the fastest car on his way to winning in Miami.

“This sort of little disappointment for a victory that was possible today is actually testament to the fact that the team has come a long way and we are now regular podium contenders, or, at times, even victory contenders.

“At the same time, I look at the positives and there are many, like certainly the team has been consistent in being competitive despite the variation of track conditions and so on which is something that you never can give for granted and you don’t gain any credit because you’ve been like this in the past.

“Every race weekend you have to gain your money. Ultimately, we ideally should make the car a little bit faster and then be in condition to chase the victory independent of the conditions on track or the track characteristics, because today we have to say that when we were in dry conditions, Mercedes was faster than us.

“We are still not in a position where we can gain the victory out of outright performance,” added Stella after recognizing their rivals’ strength in Montreal.

Asked if anything outside the first safety car hampered them in the race, Stella said no.

He believes Mercedes had the fastest car in the dry. Both Russell and Hamilton got within DRS of Norris on the final lap but fell just short of passing him. They did comfortably pass Piastri, however.

Before Mercedes boxed for fresh tyres behind the last Safety Car, Russell had passed Norris on track for P2, but he threw it away by making a mistake at the turns 8 and 9 chicane.

“Not later in the race. I think later in the race things unfolded […] actually, like I say, Mercedes should have finished ahead of Lando today, if anything, we maximised what was available after the safety car.

“Without the safety car, then I think Lando could have accumulated such a large advantage that then we could have tried to make it to the end on the dry tyres.

“But I think Mercedes could have caught up because they were a few tenths of a second faster than us today, so we really needed a decent advantage to make it safely to the end.

“But obviously, this is a little bit academic because in a race like this, two or three safety cars, you have to assume they will happen and also the weather was around.

“So we knew that it was going to be a race decided by various scenarios. And ultimately, I think we are happy with the result,” he concluded on a high note.