Lando Norris ‘devastated’ as Russian GP tyre choice backfires

Lando Norris ‘devastated’ as Russian GP tyre choice backfires

A decision by Lando Norris to stay out on hard tyres at the Russian GP came back to bite him, with the McLaren driver spinning off the track and tumbling down the order.

Lando Norris quickly had what would have been his first Formula 1 win taken away from him at Sunday’s Russian GP.

After leading for most of the race, Norris was holding off a charging Lewis Hamilton during the final few laps when rain hit.

With a sizeable lead over the rest of the pack, both Norris and Hamilton elected to stay out on track in hopes of continuing on hard tyres. However, as the rain intensified, the World Champion gave in to calls from Mercedes to pit for intermediate tyres, while Norris knocked back calls to pit, attempting to push on to secure the win.

Norris’ decision to stay out on track quickly turned out to be the wrong one. Losing grip with the ever-increasing downpour, Norris spun on Lap 51, with Hamilton passing him as he went off the track.

As Norris’ car skated on ice while limping back to the pit lane, he was quickly caught by drivers that had made the earlier choice to switch to inters. The end result would see him finish seventh, appearing visibly upset at the conclusion of the race.

“I guess we made a call to stay out,” Norris said during his post-race interview. “I think we stand by that call of course. It was the wrong one at the end of the day, but I made a decision just as much as the team.

“In fact, it was more that they thought I should box and I decided to stay out. So it was my decision. I thought it was the way to go.

“I felt I did everything I could, even when it got tricky at the end. I made a couple of mistakes but still kept Lewis behind and started to pull away a little bit.

“So it was a bit of luck, like the laps I was out before Lewis boxed, it was I think perfectly fine for the tyres I was on, and I got told the rain was going to stay the same.

“If it was the same amount then we made the right decision and I think staying out was the correct decision. But it obviously got a lot wetter than we as a team expected and that had us over in the end.”

In hindsight Norris admitted it was the wrong decision to stay out. While he initially felt comfortable remaining on hard tyres, McLaren should have pushed harder for him to pit for inters. The combination of Norris choosing to stay out, plus the team’s hesitancy in bringing him in, ultimately cost him a podium finish at a minimum.

“If there are 20 laps to go you are maybe not as aggressive with decisions,” Norris continued. “But we did what we thought was right, which I’m unhappy with of course. It was wrong at the end of the day.

“Everything until then, the guys did an excellent job and have done all weekend. So I’m happy with basically everything apart from that one decision which we’ll review and hopefully try not make again.”

Meanwhile, teammate Daniel Ricciardo would go on to finish fourth after making the decision to pit for inters as conditions deteriorated.

Starting from fifth, Ricciardo ran as high as second prior to his first pit stop. However, a slow front left tyre resulted in him losing valuable time in the box. Coming out in 14th, the Australian continued to show signs of his improvement, working his way through the field and picking up valuable points for the team.

“I speak purely on my race and my feeling … it was the far part [of the track] that was wet and we are the best reference for that,” Ricciardo said after the race. “I said, ‘Turn 5, Turn 7 I can’t keep it on the track anymore’. So for me it was clear, I said, ‘I need to come in for the inter’. Turn 7 I went off close to the wall, so it wasn’t even a question for me.

“The in-lap was sketchy. I think Carlos [Sainz] went off in Turn 7, then me, then Max [Verstappen]. I think Max saw both of us and just went off less and was able to pass there. Then we got out on the inters and I could see Carlos ahead. The last couple of laps I felt like I was bringing him in a bit, but it was a little too late. I just missed the podium, but P4 is a solid result.”