Significant Oscar Piastri data discovery adds to Lando Norris’ Silverstone pain

Pablo Hidalgo
Lando Norris leads McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri

Lando Norris leads McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri

Lewis Hamilton was very deserving of his ninth British GP win of his career at Silverstone.

However, McLaren failed again at the pitwall and denied Lando Norris the chance to at least fight for victory. With the right strategy, the data proves it was a very likely reality.

McLaren’s chance to win disappears again

As was the case just a week ago in Austria, strategy was the key element in deciding the winner this time at Silverstone. After a race in mixed wet and dry conditions, the final change from intermediates to slicks decided the outcome.

The race started in dry conditions, but with a severe threat of rain. All drivers except Guanyu Zhou on the soft tyre and Sergio Perez on the hard tyre from pit lane started the race on the medium tyre.

Race strategy British GP

Race strategy British GP

From lap 17 onwards, the rain started to fall and the front runners stayed out, using their best skills to stay on track. These conditions also allowed Lando Norris to take the lead of the race and Oscar Piastri to climb up to P2 in just four laps.

On lap 27, the rain increased, creating a much bigger shower and forcing the drivers to pit for the intermediate tyre. Here McLaren made the first serious strategic error of the day by keeping Piastri out when they could have done a double stop as Mercedes did.

The time loss was clearly greater than wasting time waiting in the pitlane for Lando to pit first and this move denied the Australian any chance of fighting for the podium and victory. From P2, just over a second behind his team-mate and leader, he dropped to P6, some 16 seconds behind Norris in front.

However, McLaren’s worst mistake was to come some 10 laps later with the final tyre change. Lando Norris was still in the lead with a gap of +2.2s over Lewis Hamilton on lap 38, when the Mercedes driver made a brave but wise call as the track was dry enough to make the switch to dry tyres.

With 15 laps to go, Mercedes decided to fit a used soft tyre to undercut McLaren and take the lead. At the same time, Oscar Piastri – out of the battle – also decided it was time to stop for slick tyres. Verstappen also stopped for the hard tyre with a completely opposite approach to Mercedes.

“Competitive cars do not have medium. Currently we think it is the right tyre, 15 laps to go,” Piastri’s race engineer informed the Australian.

To which Piastri replied: “Yes, yes. It’s the best”. McLaren therefore had a strategic advantage over all its rivals as none of them had a medium tyre – all of them had used the ‘yellow’ compound for the first stint of the race!

Available-Tyre British GP

It was undoubtedly the right choice: a still considerable race distance on a very demanding track for the tyres and ‘green’ tarmac conditions due to the previous rain.

Lando Norris came in on the lap following Lewis Hamilton, Oscar Piastri and Max Verstappen, but unlike his team-mate, Lando was not given any clear and concise instructions on which tyres to fit and the decision was his to make.

“We need to box now. The ‘soft’ is better now. Any slicks are,” Lando Norris commented over the radio.

“So we can choose a medium to cover people like Verstappen or soft to cover people like Hamilton,” his race engineer replied without any recommendation or clear statement on which tyres to fit.

Although it was a time of difficult track conditions with low grip, this decision should have been made by the team directly. They are the ones doing the numbers in the computer and all the simulations and it was clear that the soft tyre was not the right choice.

Furthermore, Hamilton in his out-lap had already almost completed the undercut to Norris because he stopped at the ideal time for the crossover from intermediate to softs.

Norris’ slow stop of 4.5s for going long in his pit box is no excuse. Hamilton made a 2.9s stop, but he had to wait a bit to get out of the box to avoid committing an unsafe release as Valtteri Bottas was in the fast lane. In fact, Hamilton spent a total of 30.038s in the pits while Lando spent 30.387s. There was no significant difference in this aspect.

Taking this into account and comparing Hamilton’s out-lap with Norris’ in-lap, we cannot estimate how much Hamilton cut in the first sector at the pit exit.

In the second sector Hamilton was -1.452s faster than Norris and -0.476s in the third sector. A total of -1.928s, which added to what he was able to cut in the first sector, meant that Hamilton had the undercut virtually completed.

Gap Evolution British GP

On the same tyre, Norris couldn’t even come close to Lewis Hamilton’s lap time. The strategy McLaren and Lando had finally chosen to cover for the Mercedes driver cost them both the win and P2. Max Verstappen, on the hard tyre, flew the Red Bull forward and caught Norris on lap 48.

Race Pace Comparison British GP

Stint Comparison British GP

As we can see, Piastri’s medium tyre, which McLaren’s own pitwall recommended to the Australian one lap before stopping Norris, was the right choice.

Even Max Verstappen’s hard proved a better option than the used soft, which on the McLaren worked really badly. On Hamilton it was slightly better, just enough to take the win in the end.

But would Norris have won on the medium tyre? The answer is: very probably yes.

Predicting Lando’s lap times on the medium tyre taking into account Piastri’s lap times, Norris would have caught Hamilton on lap 43 and – not counting the DRS effect – would have been in a position to overtake him on approximately lap 46.

Gap Evolutio British GP

All in all, McLaren has paid the price of being a team still developing to fight for Championships. They have two great drivers and probably the best car on the grid, but they lack the winning gene when it comes to making the right decisions that Red Bull and Mercedes do have. Norris is missing this gene too at the moment.

He himself has admitted that he has not been correct in his decisions. Maybe the team with the computed simulations should have taken the final call without putting so much pressure on their driver, especially when he had the race under his control after showing great skill behind the wheel in changing conditions.

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