Stella does not completely agree with Norris: ‘Ferrari currently has a faster car’

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Stella does not completely agree with Norris: 'Ferrari currently has a faster car'

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella does not entirely agree with his driver Lando Norris that he could have overtaken Charles Leclerc if his team had implemented an undercut strategy during the race in Melbourne. According to the Italian team boss, Ferrari was simply faster in Australia, although the size of the speed difference was not too bad. Stella therefore thinks that McLaren has a chance to compete with the Scuderia in Japan.

Norris finished third during the Grand Prix in Australia, taking the first podium for McLaren in 2024. However, the young Briton thought that a second place could have been achieved if his team had gone for an undercut, like Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and teammate Oscar Piastri did. However, McLaren team boss Stella does not completely agree with his driver. ‘It is possible. It is possible,” Stella told Motorsport.com. “At least, that was very, very early in the race, a race with a high degree of uncertainty about the behavior of the hard tires.”

“I think we actually went for an aggressive strategy, trying to pass Leclerc with Oscar,” Stella explains the choice to try to place an undercut with Piastri, but not with Norris. ‘But Leclerc also thought that was a good idea. And they (Piastri and Leclerc) went (into the pit lane, ed.) at the same time, possibly because they (Ferrari, ed.) were listening to our radio. This also meant that Leclerc and Oscar would have gone under two cars that were fighting each other. So with Lando in a strong position, we felt that was an unnecessary risk.”

According to the Italian, the entire race did not go as the British team expected, making it too difficult to predict. “We saw that there were certainly some big cars that didn’t look fast at all because they weren’t working well with the tires, like Pérez’s Red Bull.” Pérez eventually finished fifth, and could no longer compete with the McLarens. For Stella, that was another reason not to take unnecessary risks with Norris.

Ferrari wasn’t much faster

Stella softened the blow somewhat for Norris, adding that the Ferrari was also faster than the young Brit with a marginal lead. “Leclerc finished ahead of Lando because they have a faster car at the moment,” said the Italian. ‘The positive news is that this faster car is not that much faster at all. We were very close together, which I think is encouraging for Japan, where some of the characteristics (of the track, ed.) that make Australia good for us are taken a step further with a higher medium-high-speed ratio ( curves, ed.) compared to low-speed curves.’

Team order was to avoid unnecessary racing

McLaren’s team order to substitute Norris and Piastri was in favor of the young Brite. Stella explains why the change was necessary. “I would say that switch wasn’t even strategic. That was executive. The change would have happened naturally, because Lando had much newer tires. We called the change to prevent this from leading to unnecessary racing. But even though we had fresher tires, we didn’t actually catch Leclerc enough. That’s why I say Ferrari was fast today.’

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