Lando Norris was left a bit surprised by the turnaround in F1 Belgian GP where he ended up inside the Top 10 after a bad first stint.
It wasn’t the start that Norris wanted in F1 Belgian GP as he dropped outside the Top 10 when his medium tyres weren’t working for him against some of the soft runners. The McLaren was already on a compromised set-up and the tyre only added to it.
The switch to hard didn’t work as well but the ultimate turn to soft compound in greasy conditions eventually helped him on pace. He was a bit surprised how he managed to end up in the Top 10 after the start, but he felt the soft stint and rain helped them a bit.
Start, middle stint –
Norris: “It was terrible – it’s an honest answer. We were just stuck in a circle of not being able to push enough in the middle sector because of the cars ahead, and I was getting overtaken. People were having to lift in Eau Rouge, we were that slow, and I was getting overtaken before the DRS zone even started. So we had to try something. Switch to hard was even worse. No one’s used the hard all weekend, we thought normally it kind of suits us so I think it was the right decision to try, but that was still terrible. Again, I didn’t have enough laps to get the tyres [working] and be able to push. I got overtaken on my first lap out of the box, and then I got put behind one car so I couldn’t push in the middle sector again, and then I got overtaken two or three more times.”
Soft stint and eventual Top 10 –
Norris: “We put the soft on and everything came back towards us. I don’t know how I ended up P7, honestly. I felt like I was last for the most part and I ended up P7, so a little bit surprised. We need to rethink how we approach the weekend with the wing level and stuff like this, especially on a different circuit. It might work on one, but it doesn’t work on all of them and we clearly got it wrong this weekend. It was lighter than I was hoping, but obviously it still helped us. I think everyone got a bit scared and I was on the soft at the time the rain came, which I think was a perfect thing to have done which is why we boxed I think. But it was nothing, you get it on your visor, it looks like a lot but actually not once did it feel more slippery. So I wished it was a little bit more because I think it would have come into our hands even more.”
Plan for Norris –
Stella: “So the goal was to get Lando out of the cars around him, give him some free air and try to go long to then finish on a soft tyre. But I have to admit that our judgement on the grip of the hard tyre wasn’t correct. They are tyres that didn’t have much grip at all, and Lando found himself again in the mix of the other cars. So luckily the race gave us the opportunity to rectify the situation by going on soft very early. We kind of timed the going on soft with the rain. I would like to praise the work done by our people that, from the factory and from the track, supported the operations by observing the rain development. They kind of gave us information that allowed us to think that we can go through the rain on dry tyres. So then timing this on to the soft tyres allowed Lando to recover a massive amount of time on anybody else that was out there on the used tyres. They needed to be much more careful than Lando while driving under the rain.”
Norris’ radio calls –
Stella: “I think initially it was very tough. It was very tough even from like, ‘How do we stay in the race?’. I think psychologically it was very challenging. But we talked about this before the race and we talked before the race about, ‘Let’s not get dragged into being frustrated. Let’s only think about how do we get out of this situation’. That’s why we triggered initially going out with an early stop on the tyres that didn’t work. But then once we realised the rain was coming, we thought that’s another opportunity and I think there we got it perfectly right. So it’s tough. But ultimately Lando handled this exactly like we discussed before the race. And let me remark, the quality of the job he did today in driving such an amazing stint.”
Final stint for Norris securing points –
Stella: “The main reason is that, before the rain, we were on hard tyres that didn’t work very well at all. And also we were in the mix of other cars. Then once you get overtaken, you can’t even exploit your strength in the middle sector because you follow the other cars. So you enter a sort of negative spiral. While in the last stint on soft tyres, we had air. Then we could take advantage of the pace of the car and just keeping the others away from getting our tow. So I think it’s just the being in the mix and the tyre compound.”
Set-up for the weekend –
Stella: “So based on what we know now, definitely we could have worked on I would say at least three things. Possibly trying to shed some more drag even at the cost of some efficiency. Then you have information to optimise your ride heights because you need to be conservative once you don’t have any reference. And then the third element would be, we would know quite a bit more about the tyres and I think we would stay away from the hard tyres in the race if we could do that again.”
Here’s Carlos Sainz, Oscar Piastri on Lap 1 incident