It’s been nine years since McLaren qualified on the front row, so starting next to Max Verstappen was a great opportunity for Lando Norris and for the entire team. “A reward for the hard work that everyone has been putting in over the last month” as McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl defined it.
“We need to be realistic; I think our race pace was mainly because of the track suiting our car”, commented Seidl, who didn’t want to over-idealize his team’s current situation.
McLaren’s target was to get to P5 today, “last week we had no chance of battling against Mercedes”, explained Seidl “we knew coming into today’s race that we improved but certainly we couldn’t expect such a strong performance from our side.”
“We need to acknowledge that, compared to last week, we definitely made a step forward both in qualifying and in the race, which put us in the position to fight against top cars”, the German conceded.
“We know exactly where we stand as a team, we know what the deficits are. We are on a journey and we clearly know how we want to reduce these deficits. It will take some time, there is no magic, but it is encouraging to see the positive steps we make”.
21-years-old Lando Norris has been flying lately, continuously improving weekend after weekend. His speed has impressed everyone, especially during Saturday’s qualifying session, when he registered an astounding lap, only 0.048 seconds slower than the polesitter’s.
Unfortunately, Norris’ race got somewhat compromised when, in lap 4, he and Sergio Perez were fighting wheel-to-wheel. The Mexican tried a move around the outside, Norris pushed him wide and Perez ran into the gravel and dropped down the field.
The stewards decided McLaren’s driver should have left more room and so gave him a five-second time penalty which cost him the track position to Bottas.
“If you look at the incident and the chaos going on at the beginning of the race, I don’t understand the penalty,” commented Seidl,
“It was racing…racing that we all want to see”
“He [Lando] didn’t do anything stupid, he didn’t change his trajectory, he was always at least parallel if not ahead of Checo so, I totally don’t understand the Stewards’ decision”.
The German team boss even quoted FIA’s Race Director Michael Masi, who once said “every go-kart driver knows that if you take the outside in the first lap, you will end up in the gravel and you cannot complain about it”.
Seidl was clearly frustrated as he believes that, if it wasn’t for the Stewards' decision, they “could have gotten P2”. Moreover, Norris will be given two penalty points, which take him up to 10 for the 12-month period. Two more and he gets a race ban. “A shame,” said Seidl “if it [the race ban] happened because of today’s accident”.
“I think we had a good chance to score a P2, because we saw by being in front how difficult it was for Valtteri [Bottas] to overtake Lando today,” the Briton had a very strong pace and his missed-second-place caused a bit of “disappointment at the finishing line”.
“But we must be happy for the entire team, there were lots and lots of positives today, which give us good energy and motivation to keep working hard and prepare for our home race in Silverstone”.
What is for sure, according to Andreas Seidl, is that FIA Stewards should be more consistent with their decisions, not only during the same race but throughout the season.
“I think sometimes what is missing is the driver’s input and their point of view. If I look at today’s incident, I don’t understand how you can get a penalty for that"
“I know it doesn’t change anything if I don’t understand but still, it’s a bit disappointing,” he concluded jokingly.
Seidl also added that, while it is true that during today’s Austrian GP all incidents were assessed similarly – with Perez being handled two five-second penalties after battling with Charles Leclerc – “they were very different circumstances”.
“Lando was always in his trajectory, always parallel to Checo, even ahead. While Perez pushed Charles off the track,” McLaren’s TP said.
On Ricciardo’s side, it was another challenging weekend for him. He was starting thirteenth on the grid but managed to climb up till P7 – a solid result, especially in the battle for the Constructors’ Championship.
“His [Ricciardo’s] result today was a mixture of strategy and his ability to drive the car at its best,” commented Seidl. Having free-compound choice, Ricciardo was able to differentiate his pit-stop strategy, starting-off on the mediums.
“Some cars ahead were competing on strategy but he was also able to pull off a great performance. So it was nice to see him score some points”.
Andreas Seidl concluded the post-race debrief saying that “results like today give a boost of energy and motivation to keep working hard”, at the same time, “it is important not to get carried away with too much enthusiasm”, because there is still a long road ahead.
After an intense triple header, Formula One will now take some well-earned downtime before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 16-18.