Andrea Stella says McLaren were focusing on retaining P2 in F1 Imola GP than going for Max Verstappen, as Oscar Piastri adds on his race.

Much like how Red Bull put their focus more on Charles Leclerc, McLaren too had its focus on retaining second from the Monegasque than initially think about a F1 Imola GP win when Max Verstappen had created a gap in the first stint of the grand prix.

The focus on Norris’ side was retaining second, while for Piastri they were gunning to aide him in finishing third. It worked on the Australian to a certain extent when he managed to clear Carlos Sainz and was right on the tail of Leclerc in the battle for third.

But the aggressive strategy didn’t work as Piastri started to lose out and eventually had to settle for fourth. The Australian too rued the penalty eventually which cost him as track position was quite important on a circuit like Imola where overtaking was difficult.

McLaren also went a bit aggressive on strategy side for Norris. That was mostly done to safeguard the Brit’s position against Leclerc. Stella notes what the Brit did towards the end was unexpected as he managed to get everything in the right window.

There was a glimmer of hope for a second consecutive win, but it was not enough in the laps to run. They don’t have regret of how the race panned out and their idea of being clear of Leclerc, who did look dangerous at one point of the grand prix.

Missed chance –

Stella: “I think there were already 63 laps, which is many, and I think Max did a good job of managing his budget over the 63 laps and just making sure it was enough to retain first position. I think it is good to be in the quest for first position at the end of the race but ultimately, if we look at the first stint, Max was opening the gap. It was an interesting race because the tyres were able to operate in a narrow window and therefore, I think a combination of driver, car characteristics, the way you used the tyres, created different scenarios from a competitiveness point of view. The first stint, Max seemed to be in control and we needed to look in the mirrors with Lando, even if Oscar was actually putting quite a lot of pressure on Carlos.

“The second stint, Lando took care of his tyres at the start of the stint because we saw that the mediums struggled, which means it was not going to be an easy run to the end on hard tyres. Also, we saw that the people who had hard tyres in the first stint, they were not very brilliant, like Perez. So it was very tactical from this point of view and I think Lando did a good job in saving tyres for a long part of the second stint and then using the budget towards the end. But at the same time, there were times where Leclerc was the fastest car on track so a very interesting race from this point of view. I think the benefit of having more than one competitive car created the various scenarios, and I think it was quite entertaining, certainly on the pitwall.”

Early stop for Norris –

Stella: “At that time of the race, we were wary we were in undercut range by Leclerc. So we wanted to make sure we could hold the position because, at this track, if Leclerc pits, he finds Perez in the DRS zone, he was going to fly and undercut us. We wanted to make sure we had the track position with Lando. We checked with the driver a couple of times, he was comfortable that we would pass Perez, but it was important to retain track position and, in fairness, at that time of the race, we were not thinking we would be in the question to beat Verstappen, we were more like ‘we want to retain second position’. It could be that mathematically, we might have lost a few tenths of a second which were important at the end, but if we look at the big picture at the time, Max seemed to be out of range.”

Start for Norris –

Stella: “I think if we look at Verstappen’s consistency in launches, it is just amazing. He scores pole position and you rarely see him lose position into the first corner. Gaining this consistency in launches is again, the result of good work. I admire how they can win so consistently because there are so many ways in which things can go wrong. We were proven with the mistake in qualifying with our operations. But even achieving this level of consistency of launches, this is the quality of the driver executing the launch, it is tyre preparation, it is definitely having a good engine in the acceleration phase. You can then gain a bit of an advantage in reaction time, which Lando might have done. But if you have such a consistent launch like Verstappen has, then you don’t gain the position. It shows you need to do a good job all around to be successful and that’s what we are trying to do.”

Piastri’s pit stop, getting Leclerc possible or not –

Stella: “I think Oscar pushed as much as he could push in this race. I say this because looking at his data and speaking with our tyre engineers, they always said ‘he is pushing, the tyres are going to be at the limit at the end’. So Oscar, I think he was flat out. I don’t think he could have gone any faster and I think in managing the budget, overall, Leclerc had a little bit more than Oscar and he could retain the podium. It is a shame for Oscar because given the performance he deployed in qualifying, he had all the cards this weekend to finish on the podium. We take responsibility for Oscar not finishing on the podium because the reason for the impeding has to do with our operations, it doesn’t have anything to do with Oscar making any mistake at all. It was a situation created by the team. But I am sure Oscar will have opportunities in the future.”

Without Piastri’s penalty, any different result –

Stella: “I think the pace Max had in the first stint on medium tyres was just superior to what we had. With Lando, we minimised the race time, managing the budget of the tyres. I don’t think for us, it would have been possible to play tactically with somebody stopping early. We played our cards, in fairness, Red Bull certainly a very good car but, we see the skills of the driver who won the race. For us, it is important we prove we can be there and knock on the door of victories. At some stage, it looked like Ferrari had the fastest car, then Max appeared in qualifying, it was very variable. So it was important that in the race, we were there.”

Start position dictated things –

Piastri: “Starting from the back, I think that was the biggest thing today. I think the pace was honestly really good. I think in the first stint we were strong, just stuck behind Carlos. And then the second stint, pushed very hard at the start to undercut him and then also try and get Leclerc. And I think just with the tyres, they just don’t like being pushed. So I just struggled a bit after that. It looked like Charles had a very similar thing. You know, he went and caught the back of Lando and then dropped off. So honestly, I was pretty happy with my race. I don’t think there was much more I could have done.”

Ifs and buts eventually –

Piastri: “There’s always going to be ifs and buts. Yes, I knew after qualifying that it was going to be pretty painful. And today definitely proved it. So I think there’s a lot of positive things and encouragement to take from this week. I think as a team, clearly we’re there. And I think personally, the last two weekends, I feel like I’ve been really strong as well. Miami felt like a really strong weekend. Here’s felt really strong, and I think that was the most we could have got out of the race. So for me personally, I’m very happy. I feel like I’ve built a bit of good momentum in the last two weekends, which is something I’ve been trying to aim for a bit more. And I think as a team, you know, we’re proving in different tracks, different conditions that we’re, you know, which are generally conditions we’ve struggled in in the past that we’re in the fight for wins.”

Here’s Max Verstappen, Lando Norris on late dramas

Here’s how F1 Imola GP panned out

Here’s Max Verstappen, McLaren pair on pitlane guy

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