McLaren’s first round of pitstops resulted in a powerful undercut that moved Lando Norris ahead of Oscar Piastri.
Oscar Piastri moved into second place through the first corners of the Hungarian Grand Prix, having jumped ahead of McLaren teammate Lando Norris and overtaking the wrong-footed Lewis Hamilton as the Mercedes driver had attempted to hold off Max Verstappen.
But Piastri was shuffled down to third during his first pitstop on Lap 18, as McLaren brought him in a lap later than Norris – who himself had responded to Hamilton’s own pitstop on the preceding lap in an attempt to undercut the McLarens.
Zak Brown explains why McLaren didn’t swap positions back
With Piastri coming out alongside Norris after the stop, with the British driver seizing the initiative through Turn 1, Norris quickly set about pulling away from the Australian as the rookie’s pace fell away somewhat during the second half of the race.
Speaking to the media after the race, McLaren CEO Zak Brown explained why there had not been a call to swap back Norris and Piastri as Sky F1 presenter Nico Rosberg accused the team of not playing “fair”.
“There was some conversation on the radio,” Brown explained.
“We thought that was the best strategy for the team.
“We were considering doing something later in the race, but we were on the… what was the best strategy for the team at the time. We wanted to cover Lewis, Lewis came out and it looked like they were gonna make a stop.
“We wanted to kind of see how the pace settled in on the new tyres, so it was something that we spoke about on pitwall and said ‘let’s see where we are like five [laps] from the end and make a decision’.”
As for whether the decision-making meant that Norris will always be given the preferential pitstop treatment during a race weekend, Brown said that isn’t the case.
“No, no, no, we just did what we thought was the best strategy, really keying off of what we thought Lewis was going to do,” he said.
Zak Brown: Important to ‘get in early’ if friction occurs
While the incident could be viewed as being a potential trigger of friction between Piastri and the team, or even with Norris, Brown said there was no point in trying to make sure everyone was kept happy by immediately rectifying the order.
Asked whether establishing a friendlier dynamic between the drivers would be more beneficial than simply pitting the drivers against each other, Brown replied: “Well, I think a little bit of both.
“It’s tricky, obviously, Nico [Rosberg] was there and his championship season was pretty, pretty exciting [in 2016]. Drivers are naturally obviously very competitive with each other and you’ve just got to make sure they race cleanly, and you’re fair.
“So, when that happened on the pitstop, we knew it was something we might need to address later on, but it was too early in the race to make that decision.
“I think it’s all about managing the environment, and making sure that, if you see something bubbling up… we’ve all been there before where you see something bubbling up. Some of the team bosses just kind of watch for it to happen. So you got to get in there early if you start seeing some growling.”