McLaren facing key driver call with Hamilton v Rosberg scenario raised

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

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

Laying down the law now to his drivers, it has been suggested Andrea Stella is setting the scene to avoid a “Lewis and Nico” situation down the line when McLaren are fighting for top honours.

Not for the first time this season McLaren imposed team orders during Sunday night’s Qatar Grand Prix with a frustrated Lando Norris, running behind his team-mate Oscar Piastri, questioning that.

Running two-three after their final pitstops, Norris was catching Piastri but was told “we’re going to hold position, let’s bring it home.”

‘McLaren don’t want it to evolve into something like Lewis and Nico’

He questioned that as, pointing out that he was “clearly quicker”, but McLaren made it clear he wasn’t allowed to challenge Piastri for second.

Piastri said after the race he was a “little bit surprised” by the order to hold position while Norris felt as if he had “missed out” in Qatar.

However, team boss Andrea Stella stood by his decision to “consolidate the podium”, explaining: “One of the principles is that the team comes first. We are fair and the drivers just need to trust us.”

It was, Channel 10 Australia’s Sam Power believes, the team boss laying down the groundwork for future team-mates battles when more than just a podium is on the line.

“I think this is one of the big questions of the paddock. Do you have a number one and number two driver, or do you have two incredibly good drivers that are pushing, that far from each other, just tiny, tiny margins?” Power told the F1 Nation podcast.

“The obvious problem is that if you have the latter you’ve got to be able to manage it, you’ve got to be able to manage the interactions.

“Now happily between Oscar and Lando those interactions look incredibly healthy from the outside in, you don’t see anything creeping in in radio messages. You see fun, you see banter, you see great psychology there.

“Same can’t be said for… I mean look at George Russell, the rollercoaster of emotions that he went through trying to figure out whether or not he was to blame or not. So there’s frustration creeping in there.

“So yeah, I think there may be is an element of that where Andrea is just going like well, ‘I’ve got to set the ground here, I’ve got to make sure that this doesn’t evolve into something that becomes like Lewis and Nico, etc’.”

Team-mates at Mercedes and fighting for the World titles, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had several moments with the most notable being their 2016 Spanish Grand Prix crash that took both drivers out of the race.

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McLaren would’ve been ‘silly’ to risk 33 points

But as Stella lays down the law, Aston Martin’s Jess Hawkins says it must have been “very frustrating” for Norris to play second fiddle to his team-mate.

She, however, agrees with Stella that the team comes first and that McLaren had to safeguard those 33 points.

“That would be very frustrating for Lando,” she said, “but as a team, that’s the best thing that they could have done.

“Honestly, I hate to say it, but they have to play the long game. And the long game is just to have the two cars finished in second and third.

“I think they would have been silly to risk them letting them race. Maybe secure whatever they need to secure before letting them race you know. Personally, I think they did the right thing all be it frustrating for the drivers.”

Put to the guests that it would’ve been even more frustrating for Norris given the thought that if Max Verstappen ran into trouble and lost the lead, it would be Piastri who clinched a first Grand Prix win, Power agreed.

“I think that’s definitely something that was playing on Lando’s mind,” said the Aussie. “You know, he’s been so close on so many occasions, he desperately wants that for the team. And Oscar has obviously had a fantastic day on Saturday. So I’m with you.

“I think it’s also a bit of a reaction as to what happened with Mercedes. They’ve seen how that can drastically change the turn of events and they went ‘Right we don’t want any of that, let’s bring it home’.

“I would personally love to see them race, to be honest, because that’s what we’ve come here to see.”

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