Lando Norris’ boss considered huge gamble that Lewis Hamilton would have loved
McLaren team principal Andrea Stella has revealed that he almost pitted Lando Norris onto used soft compound tyres during the virtual safety car at the Singapore Grand Prix in a move that would have played into Mercedes’ hands.
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The young Briton was running in the podium positions during the closing stages of the Singapore GP when Esteban Ocon stopped on track at the exit of the pit lane, bringing out the virtual safety car.
Both Mercedes cars opted to dive into the pit lanes and fit new sets of medium compound tyres, which they had kept in hand throughout the weekend for such an occasion. This move set the Silver Arrows into clean air but with 14 seconds to make up on third-placed Charles Leclerc.
In the end, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton overtook Leclerc and closed up to the back of race leader Carlos Sainz and second-placed Norris, but were unable to make their way past.
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However, things could have ended very differently for Norris. Addressing the team’s strategy decisions, Stella said: “When I saw them going onto sets of brand new mediums, I thought they’re going to pass us.
“The new medium was the correct tyre for that situation, considering the stint length. We considered actually pitting, but we would be on a used soft and we were nervous of 16-17 laps flat out on a used soft.
“So we decided to stay out. We would have pitted in case of a safety car, but not in case of the virtual safety car. It was tense, but I was not very optimistic.”
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Norris managed to cling on to his second-place finish, helped by Russell’s final lap mistake in which the 25-year-old Brit clipped the outside wall on the run down to turn ten, eventually coming to a halt in the barriers.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 about the execution of his afternoon, Norris said: “Amazing. Great race. No overtaking on track but perfect strategy. A great pit stop from my guys to get ahead of Charles.
“And a good strategy. Both Mercedes boxed and I thought it was a guarantee that they would get back past me, but I managed to hold them off. Carlos helped me achieve that. We worked together pretty well to help one another. If I got overtaken, he would have done.”
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