Andrea Stella’s Street Smart Tactic Gets Shoutout From Lando Norris as Monza Narrative Takes U-Turn

Published 09/05/2023, 5:00 AM EDT

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In a race weekend where narratives often change rapidly, McLaren’s Andrea Stella’s decision to adopt an unorthodox approach has emerged as a pivotal moment. Stella, in a savvy and unexpected tactic, chose to fit last year’s car parts into this season’s MCL60. The results were not stellar. But as Lando Norris emphasized post-race, the decision effectively minimized damage on a weekend McLaren knew was not in their favor.

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The narrative ahead of the Italian Grand Prix had revolved around McLaren’s impending struggle. After their struggles in qualifying, the team braced themselves for a tough race, especially given the MCL60’s noted straight-line deficiencies. Norris, however, highlighted the silver lining in an otherwise challenging race.

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“At times we were expecting not to even be in the points, so I’m happy with it [the result]. I think it was damage limitation…At the same time, it’s good to see progress be made on the low downforce circuits,” Norris relayed to the F1 media (as per the tweet attached). The tactical move to use the previous year’s parts underscored the flexibility and adaptability of McLaren’s team management. Norris further elaborated, “I know there wasn’t a lot [of new parts], and a bit of it is just things you have from last year and trying to optimize them for here.”

Perhaps the most telling part of Norris’s post-race debrief was his acknowledgment of progress on low downforce tracks. Having shown their mettle earlier at Spa Francorchamps, McLaren is slowly chipping away at the deficits they once had on circuits that emphasized straight-line speed.

During the race, Norris had his hands full, predominantly tailing Alexander Albon’s Williams FW45. The MCL60’s straight-line speed challenges were evident. However, Norris navigated these hurdles, spotlighting the car’s improved race dynamics. The Norris-Piastri incident at the first chicane on the 24th lap was another talking point. An encounter that race officials deemed non-penalizing. Yet, this incident didn’t slip under McLaren team boss Andrea Stella’s radar.

Lando Norris and Piastri clash at Monza: Stella labels it “unacceptable”

On the 24th lap out of 51, Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris came to blows at the race’s first chicane. The incident occurred as Piastri, fresh out of the pits, tried to rejoin the racetrack, finding himself alongside Norris as they battled for the 10th position. As Piastri navigated the tight first apex from the inside, the front-right of his MCL60 made brief contact with Norris’s sidepod. Although no significant damage resulted from the skirmish, and race stewards chose not to penalize either driver, the collision didn’t go unnoticed.

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Andrea Stella, the team boss at McLaren, was quick to voice his disapproval. In a post-race interview, he emphasized, “There should never ever be contact between two McLaren cars.” He made it clear that such incidents don’t fit McLaren’s racing ethos. What is important is to have clear parameters as to what you deem acceptable and what you deem unacceptable, he added. Thus, stressing that the team’s interest should always supersede the individual driver’s goals.

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Some believe Piastri’s re-entry challenge was due to colder tires, but Stella saw a broader issue. Noting the potential pressure from Norris’s strategy, Stella warned drivers not to jeopardize the team for personal gain. Despite a peaceful Ferrari rivalry, Stella emphasized that the McLaren pair had similar freedom to race. Stella reminded drivers of their duty, highlighting the importance of not crossing certain boundaries.

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With an eventful race behind them, the McLaren team will undoubtedly review their strategies. They would want to ensure that the drivers’ competitive spirits serve the team’s interest on and off the track. The upcoming races promise more action. And McLaren will be keen to redirect the spotlight toward their performance, rather than internal duels.

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Written by:

Pulkit Jai

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Pulkit is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports. With a strong academic background in engineering, he possesses an in-depth understanding of the intricate mechanics and technology driving Formula 1 racing. This expertise allows him to offer insightful analysis, exploring the technical aspects of the sport and shedding light on the innovative advancements that shape the world of F1.
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Edited by:

Akash Pandhare

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