McLaren identify culprit for qualifying disaster as drivers eye up Las Vegas recovery

Thomas Maher
Oscar Piastri drives his McLaren during qualifying for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Oscar Piastri, as well as McLaren teammate Lando Norris, was knocked out of Q1 in Las Vegas.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris aren’t concerned about the pace of their cars in Las Vegas, despite both being knocked out in Q1.

Both McLaren drivers were knocked out of Q1 in Las Vegas, with Norris in 16th and Piastri in 19th, as neither driver put in a time good enough to progress on into the next stage.

It was a shock to see, given McLaren’s performance in the second half of this season, and their performance throughout the weekend had been as expected. But a tactical error has been identified as the reason for their failure to progress, rather than a pace deficit.

Oscar Piastri: McLaren’s pace not a concern

Unlike many of the rest of the teams, McLaren opted against fitting their drivers with a second set of new tyres for the final runs in Q1 – a critical factor that cost Norris and Piastri dearly.

Both drivers suggested this as the main reason for their shock qualifying elimination, with Piastri saying their pace up until qualifying is the reason why there’s no panic for the Woking-based team.

“I don’t think it’s that confusing,” he told Sky F1.

“I think the pace in the car is actually quite good. Just we got caught out a bit by not using a second set of tyres, or something like that.

“I need to check who used two sets of tyres, but I think pretty much everyone did. So the car was pretty decent in FP3.

“At the start of qualifying, we were sort of in a pretty normal spot, you know, around the top five, certainly the top 10. Then yeah, as the track improved or others put another set of tyres on, we didn’t and then that explains it.

“I need to see. I’m hoping that makes all the difference! But yeah, for me, it doesn’t make that much sense that we went from both around the top five to out of qualifying from one lap to the next because I felt like I was improving my driving a little bit.

“I think Lando said the same and we weren’t going to find however much time it was to get to the front so something to look into, but I think the pace in the car is still not a concern.” recommends

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Norris said the extreme closeness of the field also played a key factor and that, if there had been even another tenth or two in hand, he could have been much higher on the grid that his 16th place finish.

“I would say it’s not a surprise just because it’s very close,” he said.

“Just when things aren’t quite going, just when you’re not quite comfortable and you’re maybe one or two-tenths off where you want to be, then it makes a big difference.

“Two-tenths was between me and, I think, like five positions.

“So, I could, quite easily, if just a couple of things came together, it could be like, ‘Oh, yeah, not a bad day, blah, blah blah’, but just been struggling with the car on this circuit.

“I think we said before the weekend and I’d say it’s painful that we can’t even get through to Q2. I don’t think we necessarily got anything wrong.

“Should we have maybe done the pitstop and put another set of new [tyres] on? Potentially, but a tough decision to make in the middle of qualifying at the same time because I think we got up to speed very quickly.

“I feel like both Oscar and I get up to speed very quickly and extract a lot out of the car early on. Everyone else just got quicker and quicker and quicker and built up to a little bit more which gave us gave us a little bit of the wrong perception so early on in the session. It happens, but I look forward to tomorrow.”

McLaren boss Andrea Stella said the aim is still to finish in the points to solidify their position ahead of Aston Martin – the two teams separated by just 21 points with two races to go.

“So far, this weekend in Vegas has been a bit of a struggle, both in terms of putting the car in a decent operating performance window,” he said.

“And also dealing with the behaviour of the tyres, which are difficult in terms of warm-up but at the same time can also get damaged very easily with graining.

“Despite that, we had enough performance to progress from Q1, but we were not able to because the single set of tyres we were going to use was degrading too rapidly and was not enough to beat cars that used two sets.

“We’ll take that on the chin and refocus on preparing for the race. It may be eventful, tyre behaviour will be a major factor, and we’ll do our best to recover and score some points.”

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