McLaren’s woes continue with Lando Norris puncture at Qatar GP

McLaren’s woes continue with Lando Norris puncture at Qatar GP

McLaren’s run of bad luck continued at the Qatar GP, with Lando Norris’ puncture all but ending the team’s hopes of ‘best of the rest’.

The final race of the triple-header didn’t go McLaren’s way, with Lando Norris suffering a puncture while in P4 during the closing stages of the Qatar GP. Having to pit for new tyres saw Norris tumble down the order, eventually coming home in P9.

A lack of points over three consecutive races has effectively ended McLaren’s chances of retaining third in the Constructors’ Championship. Scoring just four points during the three race weekends, all courtesy of Norris, has seen Ferrari take a 39.5 lead with just two rounds remaining.

Since Monza, the tides turned between McLaren and Ferrari. A fresh power unit upgrade for the Scuderia, as well as a more rounded car in the SF21, saw them catch and then pass their Woking-based rivals in the standings.

The McLaren MCL35M has continued to struggle on tracks where a higher amount of downforce is required, underperforming on both low speed and long corners. A problem obviously too big for the team to rectify this season as a completely new car will come into play under the new regulations from 2022.

“A disappointing race. We could’ve scored some good points today,” Norris said. “The car was very strong, I felt confident and we had good pace compared to everyone behind. Only Fernando [Alonso] had slightly better pace.

“I’m not sure we could’ve challenged for the podium, but we had good pace to go for P4, or at least P5, which would’ve been a great result for us. We lost that position through no fault of our own. It’s a huge shame, as the team worked really hard all weekend, but there was nothing we could do.”

Norris wasn’t the only McLaren driver to suffer from bad luck. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo experienced an unusually high fuel burn rate which resulted in the Australian having to be fairly conservative with his race speed.

Starting from 14th on the grid, Ricciardo could only manage to work his way up to 12th. Coming off a points scoring spree after the summer break, the Qatar GP marked his third race in a row where he failed to finish inside the top 10.

“This triple-header didn’t go our way,” McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl said. “Lando drove a strong race today and looked set for P4 on merit, thanks to a competitive car, good strategy and an excellent pit-stop. A puncture took him out of contention, and he finished P9. When that happened, his hard tyre had done fewer laps than the Soft tyre did in his first stint, so this was very unexpected.

“For Daniel, it was always going to be tough to get into the points from P14. He drove a very strong first stint that pulled him up into contention, but then had to save an unusually high amount of fuel. We’ll have to investigate why that was required on his side.”

Formula 1 heads to Saudi Arabia in two weeks’ time for the penultimate round in 2021.