Lando Norris wants McLaren discussion after openly questioning early Japan GP pit stop

Jamie Woodhouse
Lando Norris looking very serious in the press conference.

Lando Norris looking serious.

Lando Norris believes McLaren made the wrong call with his early pit stop at Suzuka as he ended the race behind both Ferraris.

Starting from P3, Norris retained that position through the opening stages of the Japanese Grand Prix, though was the first of the frontrunners to pit on Lap 12, releasing the pursuing Carlos Sainz who would make his opening pit stop on Lap 16.

Lando Norris wants McLaren strategy talks

Norris, like Sainz, ultimately went for the two-stop strategy, with Sainz making the best of that to secure a P3 finish, nine seconds up the road from Norris, who also finished behind Sainz’s Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc who made the one-stop work.

And Norris feels McLaren took the wrong approach in pitting early and running a similar strategy to Sainz’s, something which he will discuss with the team in the aftermath.

“It was a tough race,” Norris admitted to Sky F1. “I think compared to those guys who had better pace, compared to the Ferraris, just not enough.

“I think everything kind of fell back in-line in terms of Red Bull, Ferrari, us, which is a shame. It doesn’t feel great when you start third and just kind of go backwards and kind of feel like you’re just fighting a bit of a losing battle against these guys because they can just do a lot more. They can go longer and extend to have a much bigger tyre delta.

“It’s hard to fight on a track like this, but we gave it a good shot, we did what we could have done. We’ve got the maximum points apart from these top two teams, which was all we could do.

“Charles did a good job to go that far on one set of tyres and then I’m kind of surprised we boxed as early as we did to be honest with you.

“Because that just put it in line with what Ferrari did, and we covered George [Russell] which I just didn’t think we maybe needed to do.

“This is something we’ll discuss during the briefing. Maybe a discussion of we could have done a better job for P4. It’s always difficult to make those decisions at the time, we didn’t even know that he was going to pit.”

Nonetheless, Norris would reiterate his belief that McLaren are lacking performance compared to Red Bull and Ferrari, after it was suggested that McLaren and Ferrari are now neck-and-neck.

“No, Ferrari is clearly ahead,” Norris affirmed. “They’ve been ahead all year, they’re still ahead.

“We’ve not changed anything, there’s no reason why we should be ahead, so no.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 race wins: Which drivers have the highest win totals in F1 history?

F1 2024: Head-to-head race statistics between team-mates

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella explained the team’s thinking with that early stop as they prioritised keeping Norris ahead of Sainz, but ultimately they did not have the pace to make the podium.

“I think there was no issues effectively. I think the final classification is in the pace, competitiveness order if you want,” Stella told Sky F1.

“We did try to go for the podium by stopping early, making sure that we could keep the position ahead of Carlos and then see also what was possible attacking [Sergio] Perez, but ultimately, we saw throughout the race that there wasn’t enough pace in the car.

“That’s fair enough, it’s a good reflection of the competitiveness at this stage of the season. We know we have work to do. We have upgrades coming, so we keep going.”

Stella also ruled out the idea that McLaren could have followed Leclerc in trying to make the one-stop work, Stella making it clear that pace, rather than strategy, was behind the final result.

“Good work by Charles and good work by Ferrari in making a one-stop possible,” Stella acknowledged. “I think that was not possible today for us.

“And anyhow, it wasn’t the fastest strategy. So like I say, good for Ferrari that they could keep their tyres for so long, but it wasn’t about the one-stop or two, it was more about genuine car pace, like is very often the case here in Suzuka.”

McLaren remain P3 in the Constructors’ Championship though have now fallen 51 points behind Ferrari, with Norris’ team-mate Oscar Piastri crossing the line P8 at Suzuka.

Read next – Japanese GP: Max Verstappen back in cruise control as Daniel Ricciardo’s nightmare continues