Norris says British GP podium was “stressful” and a “bigger challenge” on the hard tyres

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Lando Norris was on course for a comfortable second place at the 2023 F1 British GP before a late Safety Car meant McLaren switched the Briton to the hard tyres whilst all those around him were on softs. He said it made his race “stressful” and even more challenging than it already was, but was satisfied that he could still retain his place.

Photo Credit: McLaren F1

After a brilliant start on the medium tyres, Norris took the initiative and the lead from Max Verstappen into Abbey, a lead which he would retain until lap five before the inevitable pace advantage of the Red Bull came into fruition. The Briton didn’t put up much of a fight, and instead focused on ensuring the best possible result for him and his McLaren team-mate Piastri.

The pair were pulling away from the field behind in pure pace in a 2-3 McLaren formation, before Piastri made his first stop on lap 30, switching from the medium to the hard tyres. But a virtual safety car which eventually turned into a full safety car for Kevin Magnussen’s stricken Haas on the Wellington straight on lap 34 meant both Norris and Verstappen stopped under the yellow flag period.

But critically, McLaren opted to fit Norris’ car with the hard compound tyres, whilst Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton – who benefitted to jump up to third during the safety car – were both on the soft tyres, which yields more raw grip and gets up to temperature window quicker, leaving the Briton vulnerable at the restart, but he was able to fend off his fellow Briton.

Speaking after the race, Norris cheekily said there are some “beginners” that made the choice of giving him the harder tyres:

“Pretty amazing, pretty insane to put up with the fight,” he said about fighting Hamilton. “They put me on hard tyres and I don’t know why, so there are still some beginners in some things.

“It was an amazing fight with Lewis [Hamilton], to hold him off. I made a few too many mistakes maybe, but I did what I could – I brought the fight to Max [Verstappen] as long as possible, it’s a long and lonely race when you’re just in the middle, but it’s amazing, so yeah.”

“I think they just wanted to give me a bit more of a test I guess, that’s what Zak [Brown] said anyway, it’s all on Zak [for] calling the shots on that one,” he said, while laughing. “I wanted the softs, I feel like it made a bit more sense, especially with the safety car coming out – but I don’t care, I’m P2 so I’m good!”

When asked by ViaPlay of his biggest concerns regarding the hard tyres for the restart, Norris highlighted the difficulty in the heating uo cycle was his “big question”, but reiterated that he is glad that it worked out at the end, giving him his seventh career podium and McLaren’s first at Silverstone since Lewis Hamilton in 2010:

“I mean, it ended in the perfect way,” he said. “But it was [all about] if I could get the [hard] tyres up to temperature quickly enough, that was the big question I had.

“And it was difficult in the first lap, Lewis could do very different lines, he could attack me a lot in the slow speed [corners], and in the slow speed I struggled so much, but in the high speed we were very, very quick today. It was our strength, almost as good as the Red Bull, and this saved me, this saved my pizza, my podium.

“But it made my life very tough, it was a big challenge. It was challenging enough [already], but to then to then go into the hard tyre was a bigger challenge, so [it was] stressful.”

Whilst he was satisfied with having maximised his own result, Norris was left wondering what could’ve been if the safety car hadn’t affected his team-mate Oscar Piastri quite so badly. The Australian was on his way to pick up a comfortable podium, but a pit stop just before the safety car meant he was jumped by Hamilton’s Mercedes:

“Pretty amazing [to be on the podium at Silverstone]. I mean, the whole in lap I was just trying to wave to everyone, so a big thanks to all the British fans that are here supporting all of us, and also for McLaren.

“Honestly, we should have had a P2-P3. Oscar [Piastri] did an amazing job all weekend and he should have been P3 today without the safety car, [which is] a shame, he deserved it.”

McLaren’s excellent result at Silverstone leaves the Woking squad comfortably clear in 5th place in the constructors’, with 59 points, 12 more than direct rivals Alpine.