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Formula 1

Too harsh? Norris's U-turn on key McLaren error explained

by Josh Suttill
3 min read

Lando Norris believes McLaren threw away a potential victory at Formula 1's Canadian Grand Prix, believing it was because of ill-judged strategy rather than bad luck.

Norris lost the race lead when his rivals pitted under the first safety car, one lap before Norris was able to.

That safety car - called to recover Logan Sargeant's stricken Williams - was deployed just as Norris approached the final chicane, which is next to the pitlane entry.

He wasn't able to dart in from the lead but Max Verstappen and George Russell did behind him and ultimately jumped him when Norris pitted one lap later.

Initially, after the race Norris compared it to the timing in Miami where he benefitted and jumped Verstappen for a lead he'd keep until the chequered flag: "I had amazing pace but then the safety car had me over. 

"Just like it helped me in Miami it's now had me back over. Honestly I thought it was a pretty perfect race from my side, just a bit unlucky."

But just over half an hour later in the post-race press conference, Norris had changed his opinion and felt McLaren had missed a second victory of 2024.

Lando Norris McLaren Canadian Grand Prix 2024

"We should have won today, simple as that. We didn't do a good enough job as a team to box when we should have done and not get stuck behind the safety car," Norris said.

"I don't think it was a luck or unlucky kind of thing. I don't think it was the same as Miami. This was just making a wrong call, so it's on me and the team and it's something we'll discuss after.

"We should have won today, we're at the level now where we're not satisfied with second, the target is to win and we didn't do that. So frustrating."

Norris believes the later call to keep him out longer on the intermediates before switching to slicks was the right call as it "helped me have a chance against George", who he eventually beat to second, but felt the damage was already done.

"I had enough time to box and we didn't box so this was a mistake on us as a team," Norris said of the first pitstop timing.

"It's just something we didn't do a good enough job."

Too harsh?

Norris is right that it's a very different situation to Miami. There Red Bull had already brought Verstappen in, so it was powerless when McLaren used a safety car to pit Norris.

But if you look at where Norris was on track at the time the Montreal safety car was deployed, he was quite literally about to brake for the chicane when the safety car message appeared on the trackside boards.

So without a very sudden split-second decision, pitting then would have been extremely difficult. And it could have led to a slow pitstop scenario if the team wasn't expecting him and he'd have lost even more time.

Norris's change of opinion is more likely to be because McLaren didn't anticipate the safety car timing. There was a decent window of time between Sargeant stopping (in a place where if he didn't rejoin, a safety car would be almost guaranteed) and the safety car being called. 

So McLaren could have called Norris in for fresh intermediates and pre-empted the safety car.

But even that is a fairly harsh reading of the situation. It's easy to say with hindsight, yes, but it didn't want to unnecessarily give away the track position that Norris had fought and won so well earlier in the race.

There was theoretically a better strategy on the table but it was hardly a glaring error that McLaren should be kicking itself too harshly over. As Norris says, the new reality of McLaren expecting to challenge every weekend amplifies the anguish of these near-misses.

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