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Brown defends Piastri strategy


McLaren boss, Zak Brown has defended the decision to pit Lando Norris ahead of his teammate Oscar Piastri even though the Australian was ahead at the time.

A superb move by the Australian going into Turn 3 on the opening lap saw him pass both his teammate Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton to take second.

However, on Lap 17 McLaren opted to pit Norris first even though the Briton was still running behind his teammate. Norris rejoined the race in fifth, while Piastri, who pitted a lap later, rejoined the race behind the Briton.

"Piastri and his manager Mark Webber will be concerned about that," said Sky Sports commentator, Martin Brundle. "He was running in front for McLaren and got the second pit stop. So the undercut there has moved them around. Maybe that's what McLaren wanted."

Following the race, Nico Rosberg raised the controversial move with team boss Zak Brown. "That was not fair," said the 2016 world champion.

"We thought that was the best strategy for the team," said Brown. "We were considering do we do something later in the race but we were on what was the best strategy for the team.

"At the time, we wanted to cover Lewis," he added. "Lewis came out and looked like they were going to make a stop."

"Shouldn't you have just switched places right afterwards?" asked Rosberg.

"We wanted to see how the pace settled in on the new tyres," replied Brown. "It was something we spoke about on pit wall and said: ‘Let's see where we are on lap five-from-the-end and make a decision'.

Asked if Norris will always have first call, Brown was adamant. "No, no, no, no! That was what we thought was the best strategy and really keying off what we thought Lewis was going to do."

Andrea Stella was equally keen to play down any talk of bias towards Norris.

"In terms of the undercut that we had at the first stop, you just go really with the sequence that is natural, because you cover with the car that is more at risk, and then you cover with the other car," he explained. "Lando's out-lap was just super, super quick, which meant Oscar lost the position.

"To be honest, our approach to these situations is to think about the team first," he added. "We think as a team, and then we deal with the internal situation.

"When you are fighting against other competitors outside your team, you need to be very careful that you don't engage in an internal battle that will cost the team," he continued.

"If we see last year's race, maybe that's what happened with the red car," he added, referring to Ferrari's 2022 decision to put Charles Leclerc on the slower hard tyres. "It was very expensive. So, we want to stay away from that."

Stella also revealed that Piastri had incurred damage to his floor which as the race developed would have negated any advantage gained by pitting him first.

"Oscar had damage on his car, and this meant that he lost some time from a performance point of view," he said. "But also, we think because this was rear downforce, I think this caused extra degradation of the tyres. And that's part of the reason why he struggled then to keep up with Lando, but also with the other cars coming behind him."

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1. Posted by kenji, 25/07/2023 1:51

"@ JamesD....Even Freddie and his guide dog would know that. Rosberg is German and Brundle is a Brit and you are, let me guess...... Just for the record cast your mind back a few races ago and the radio comms telling Piastri to 'hold station' [ ? ] then a further few races ago Norris being told that 'Piastri will not attack you' [ ? ] Then the latest blatant undercut. There is a pattern of 'protection' for their star here and it's obvious. The mere fact that McLaren were confronted over this and their subsequent reponse saying that in approx 45 laps time they would look at reversing the undercut tells you what they were thinking. Anyway it's history now but I'm hoping that equal treatment is given to both drivers at Spa as I simply abhor team orders at any time. Free racing is rare these days. "

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2. Posted by JamesD, 24/07/2023 17:21

"@kenji - Have you advised everyone that you are Australian ..."

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3. Posted by kenji, 24/07/2023 13:25

"@ West York...Rosberg was right when he made the point that when Hamilton didn't make a pit stop that it was then that they should've switched back to give Piastri the lead for the team. At that stage no one had any idea that Piastri may have had damage.The lap times certainly don't show his lap times suffering from lap 19 and onwards at the time. What eventuated came later."

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4. Posted by Mad Matt, 24/07/2023 13:18

"@kenji - It's always difficult to know if a driver is not able to keep up with his faster team mate or if he's staying back and saving tires... but Oscar certainly did very well at the start and I'm inclined to think he had the measure of Lando for the first stint. Oscar might have even managed to hold the place if it weren't for some very quick laps by Lando... and even then a slightly better in-lap from Oscar and he'd have stayed ahead.

I'm still prepared to believe McLaren and take the viewpoint of @West York.... I'll at least give them the benefit of the doubt but keep an eye on them for the next few races.

On the other hand, for the rest of the race Lando appeared quicker than Oscar, which Oscar himself said makes any pit stop questions unimportant (F1 official after race interview on Youtube, if anyone is interested).

What I am enjoying is that McLaren has two capable and likeable drivers....I'm looking forward to more of that :-)

PS. No down votes from me in this thread, I've got my opinion, others who take the time to explain theirs are entitled to differ. In the end none of us can be 100% sure what really happened....."

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5. Posted by West York, 24/07/2023 12:13

"They had to pit Lando in response to Lewis to maintain their teams two cars in front of the Mercedes.
If they had pitted Lando second, it was likely from the previous pace pre-stops, that Lando would have come out behind Lewis, & If they'd done that, it's more than likely that Sergio would have taken 2nd in the race and postentially Lewis third, if Lando had been delayed by the then slower Piastri (if he'd come out behind him).
With hindsight, the best decision was made, whether by luck or judgement, or a combination of both."

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6. Posted by kenji, 24/07/2023 11:14

"@ Mad Matt...You are too kind to McLaren/Brown/Stella. I am still angry at them, once again, dissing on Piastri! He was definitely dropping Norris off, they saw that and decided to close off a prospective second place to their no. 2 driver. To then say that they discussed this on the bench and decided to wait until 5 laps off the end to look at a switch is rubbish. That means that they were taking a count of 47 laps to see where the play was? The fact that they were even considering a switch puts the original decision to the sword. To then say that Oscar had car damage was a factor...he didn't have any damage for the first 18 laps so any damage occurred after the switch. Sorry but Im not convinced that McLaren did anything other but favour Norris at Piastri's expense. A very poor show."

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7. Posted by Mad Matt, 24/07/2023 7:33

"I must admit to be a bit surprised... but it sounds reasonable and Oscar simply said that Lando finished 30 seconds up the road so for him it's a non-issue.

Either way it was a good drive from Oscar and respect to him for not making a fuss about Checo's little "push"."

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