McLaren explain the ‘simple’ reason they went with hard tyres at Silverstone

Michelle Foster
Lando Norris standing with McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri. Britain July 2023

Lando Norris standing with his McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri. Britain July 2023

McLaren frustrated Lando Norris, and pundits as well, as they put the hard tyres on both the Briton’s MCL60 and that of his team-mate Oscar Piastri’s in a late Safety Car at the British Grand Prix.

Team boss Andreas Stella says defended the call saying that the “simple” decision was because that’s what the team had readied for the drivers under the Virtual Safety Car, one that was then changed to a full Safety Car.

Norris and his team-mate Piastri were running 2-3 for much of the British Grand Prix with the Briton even leading the opening laps before Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was able to pull off a DRS overtake.

Additional reporting Thomas Maher

McLaren: So we kept the decision simple

But while that was expected given Red Bull’s form this season, McLaren holding down two of the three podium positions was a welcome surprise but one the team lost control of during a late Safety Car situation.

Having pitted Piastri for a set of hard tyres with 23 laps remaining, McLaren’s strategy was thrown into doubt when a late Virtual Safety Car came out for Kevin Magnussen’s power unit failure. The team opted to call Norris in from P2 at the time only for that to change to a full Safety Car.

With Norris on the hard tyres, the Briton was quick to question what the Mercedes team-mates of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, the two split by Piastri because of the timing of the pit stops, were on.

He wasn’t happy with the reply.

Norris: “What tyre does the Mercedes have on?”
Engineer: “Hamilton behind you has fitted a used soft, used soft. Same for Verstappen ahead of you.”
Norris. “Lovely. Yeah. Wonderful man.”

It, however, turned out to the right one as, while the Briton was forced to defend with everything he had as Lewis Hamilton drew alongside him through Copse, Norris’ tyres came into their own while Hamilton complained he’d killed his softs trying to take second.

But while Norris had a quip at his team for a “beginners” call, team boss Stella says opting for the “simple” decision ultimately proved to be the right one.

“Under the Virtual Safety Car, we were happy to go on hard tyres because it wouldn’t have been a problem in terms of warm up,” he told the media including PlanetF1.com.

“But then the Virtual Safety Car was converted into a Safety Car when we were pitting, and everything was [ready] at the pit stop to put hard tyres on. A last-minute change to soft would have been an operational problem.

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“We thought that this is not one of those situations in which the hard tyres were a massive difference from a warm-up point of view to soft – like if you can manage the first four corners and then you got to corner nine and you start generate a decent amount of temperature.

“So we kept the decision simple.

“We didn’t want to change the allocation of the tyres at the pit stop because this would have meant a significant delay, and accepting that it could cost us at the start maybe one position but that was the most sensible thing to do.”

The McLaren team boss, who took up the reins at the beginning of the season to replace the Sauber-bound Andrea Seidl, says it was a case of those were the tyres out therefore that was the right call.

“If you have the pit stop crew ready with the hard tyres, and if you make a call for soft tyres, it means that the guys that need to pick the tyres would have to rush there in the garage, remove the blankets, and bring the tyres back,” he said.

“It can create quite a bit of a situation, and it could have delayed the pit stop.”

McLaren’s P2 and P4 pushed them onto 59 points for the year, 12 ahead of Alpine in the race for P5 in the Constructors’ Championship.

Read next: British Grand Prix conclusions: Norris’ podium warning, Hamilton wants answers