Andrea Stella explains McLaren strategy after Lando Norris questioned team orders

Michelle Foster
Andrea Stella celebrates with Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.

McLaren again resorted to team orders at the Qatar Grand Prix.

As Lando Norris questioned McLaren’s team orders in Qatar, Andrea Stella has made it clear to his drivers that McLaren’s number one racing principle is “the team comes first”.

Following on from his Sprint race win on Saturday night, Oscar Piastri was running second in the grand prix ahead of Norris with the Briton six seconds behind after the team-mates made their final stop of the night.

But closing in the Aussie, Norris showing better pace in the final stint, he was told not to attack: “The team’s instructions are to hold the position until the end of the race.”

McLaren: One of the principles is that the team comes first

Norris questioned “why do you want to do that?” only to be told that while the team can “see” he is faster than Piastri, they were a “little worried” about George Russell.

That, however, turned out to be unfounded with Russell unable to close the gap despite the four-stopping Mercedes driver being on the soft tyres for his final laps.

Piastri crossed the line in second place with Norris P3 as the team-mates achieved McLaren’s second double podium in as many grands prix.

Piastri later admitted he was a “little bit surprised” by McLaren’s team orders while Norris said he felt as if he had “missed out” in Qatar.

Stella says consolidating the double podium was all that mattered to those on the pit wall.

“After we consolidated the positions at the last stop we just told the driver to hold position and then bring the two cars home, stay away from the kerbs, avoid track limits, keep it simple. That consolidated the podium today,” he told Sky F1.

“We do prepare always these kind of objectives, we remind them of our racing principles all the time in preparation for an event and before the race.

“I have to say more specifically, we don’t talk about Aston, we just talk about going out there and doing a good job. And we do a good job if we stick with our racing principles.

“And one of the principles is that the team comes first. We are fair and the drivers just need to trust us.”

Asked about Norris’ questioning the team orders, the team boss said he has no issue with that.

“We always as part of our principles tell the drivers when we give you an instruction to come back to us because we want to be 100% sure that we understand your position,” he said. “But,” he added, “if we come back to you, stick with it.”

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The ‘kind of headache’ Stella welcomes

With McLaren emerging as Red Bull’s nearest challenger in recent weeks, pundits have applauded McLaren’s driver line-up with the team recently re-signing Piastri through to 2026 while Norris’ deal runs until the end of 2025.

Said to be one of the strongest line-ups on the grid, the Piastri versus Norris rivalry is expected to heat up as the team fights for top positions.

That is a problem Stella welcomes.

“I think you’re right, I’d rather have this kind of headache,” he said.

“We think about it not only in the future, we think about it all the times when we go racing before the weekend and before the race. Because you know we’re very realistic.

“These guys they drive since they are kids and they have this objective of winning. So we know their personalities, we know that very well, but we need to manage that this stays instrumental for the team and does not become a problem for the team.

“At the moment I think we are in a good position, we need to stay there.”

For today, though, he’s celebrating the progress made by his drivers with McLaren closing the gap to Aston Martin to just 11 points in the battle for P4 in the Constructors’ Championship.

“I think there’s positives and progress from both sides of the garage,” said the German. “We shouldn’t forget that in Suzuka we talked about Oscar needing to improve on race pace, and look at the race pace here today.

“So for me, we take the positive, we start from the positives, and we always remind ourselves what we are here for which is first of all, take McLaren to where McLaren should belong and then we think about internal competition.”

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