The late drama that unfolded in Sochi reminded Ross Brawn of when Rubens Barrichello won the 2000 German Grand Prix.
The Russian Grand Prix looked set to be the first F1 race won by Lando Norris, with the McLaren man leading for the majority.
That changed when rain started to fall through, with him staying out rather than pitting for intermediate tyres and ultimately going off, losing the lead to Hamilton before finally coming in and dropping down to P7.
The situation – with the win resting on strategy decisions made by the driver and team – reminded Brawn of when Rubens Barrichello defied Ferrari’s team orders to stay out in Germany in 2000 and went on to win.
“Lando will be hurting right now. We all felt his pain when he slid off the track. It was a tragedy,” Brawn said in his column for the F1 website.
“I’ve been in that situation – when you need to make a big strategy call. I’ve won races by hanging on, I’ve lost races by hanging on.
“A good example is when Rubens Barrichello won the German Grand Prix in 2000 for Ferrari. We insisted on him coming in and he said ‘no way’ – and he hung on and won the race.
“Those scenarios are so difficult and in Sochi it was especially tricky as only half the track was wet. Even with radar, no one is completely certain how wet it will be.
“And if you’re leading a race, you don’t want to give it up. When you’re in the front, the guy in second has a much easier decision to make as he has nothing to lose. He either stays out and does what the guy in front does or takes a punt and he is unlikely to be any worse off than he was to begin with.”
We’ve come a long way, team.
From struggling to make Q2 just 3 years ago, to leading back to back races.
Keep pushing! 🧡 pic.twitter.com/rVHsC10Mhg
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) September 27, 2021
Norris was ultimately the one to decide to stay out, with the team suggesting he pit but allowing him to make the final call himself.
Brawn sympathises with both the team and driver and understands why they did what they did.
“So much would have been preying on his mind, including the fact he managed to cope in qualifying better than anyone else. I see why he was insistent with his team,” he added.
“You could ask – should his McLaren team have taken the lead and insisted he pit when he said he didn’t want to? A driver is in a bubble. He doesn’t see what’s going on. In this case, I’d say it’s 60/40 in favour of the team making the decision but it’s so difficult because you don’t want to give up the lead of the race.
“That sinking feeling a driver or a team gets when they realise they made the wrong call, and the lead is evaporating before their very eyes, is horrible. They have my sympathies, but that kind of drama is what makes F1 so fantastic.”