McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said an “unlucky puncture” caused Lando Norris to lose out on P5 in the Drivers’ Championship.
Norris had been flying high throughout the season after an excellent first half of the year, and held P3 in the standings above both Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez for a significant portion of the season.
But he dropped behind the pair of them with McLaren struggling to maintain their competitiveness in the latter stages of 2021, combined with Ferrari having an upturn in form to overtake their rivals and take third in the Constructors’ Championship.
A podium from former McLaren driver Carlos Sainz saw him leapfrog both Norris and Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc to be ‘best of the rest’ behind the Mercedes and Red Bull pairs in the Drivers’ standings.
Seidl thought Norris would be able to secure the place, but a slow puncture in Abu Dhabi put paid to any chance of him keeping that position in an “unlucky” end to the season for him.
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“We were in a good position to score this P5 in the Drivers’ Championship,” said the McLaren team principal, quoted by Autosport.
“Because we were close enough to Carlos, and there was no need to try more, because it was a tricky race in terms of tyre management as well.
“Charles was losing more than four points to Lando, and therefore we were in a good position.
“And then he had an unlucky puncture, there was nothing we could do. That’s why we stayed in P6 in the Drivers’ Championship. We have overtaken Charles, but Carlos had that big result. So unlucky.”
Pirelli had been worried ahead of the weekend in Abu Dhabi that the kerbs would create a similar issue with the tyres as was evidenced in Qatar in November, with several drivers – including Norris – getting punctures during the race due to how they were created.
The kerbs were treated to take away any sharp edges at Yas Marina ahead of the weekend as a result, and Seidl said after the race that it was simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time that caused Norris’ issue on Sunday.
“In Qatar it was a structural failure of the tyre due to the loads the car has seen with the kerbs,” he said. “So a completely different issue compared to what we have seen today.
“Today we have seen a slow puncture. Where we need to see now when we do the analysis together with Pirelli was it from running over debris, or something like that? It was not a structural issue, just bad luck.”
Slightly disappointing Sunday for McLaren
Nothing really fell the way of the two McLaren drivers during the race.