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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Published: 24/07/2023
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