Lando Norris test drives the McLaren Elva during development
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McLaren driver Lando Norris’ inexperience was highlighted during the dramatic Russian Grand Prix when he refused to pit for a change of tyres when the rain came several laps before the end of the race. The young Brit lost out on a maiden F1 win to seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
As a result, the Brit, who was on track for his first F1 win, spun out on the wet slippery track and his golden opportunity went up in smoke.
And his inexperience at the crunch time of a race was illustrated by a radio call with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren race engineers Tom Stallard and Will Joseph.
Ricciardo opted to pit on lap 48 and change to wet weather friendly tyres, unlike his team-mate.
Although the 21-year-old and the Australian were in different situations in the race and on different parts of the track when it started to rain, radio messages from lap 46 show Ricciardo handling the situation in a very different way to his younger team-mate.
“Yeah, very slippery, yeah, crazy slippery,” Ricciardo said on lap 47 and repeated the statement a lap later.
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“Daniel copy, five laps (to go in the race) after this, do we need the inter?” Ricciardo’s race engineer Stallard responded.
Ricciardo then said: “Yeah. I can’t keep it on track. The hard (tyre) has just got no temp.”
And Stallard responded: “Copy, Daniel. We’ll box, we’ll box.”
Ricciardo dived into the pits as a result but Norris, who was keen to stay out and retain his lead, snapped at his McLaren engineer Will Joseph for suggesting he change his tyres.
“Four (laps) to go after this one, four after this one,” Joseph said. “Some cars have pitted for inter. (Mercedes’ Valtteri) Bottas has gone already.
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“Track very slippery from here to turn 10. Lots of cars going off.”
“Yeah. Shut up!” Norris retorted.
Joseph persisted with the idea but his driver insisted on staying out, which he did.
“Lando, what do you think about inter? What do you think about inter?” Joseph repeated, but Norris fired back: “No!”
Joseph told him second-placed Lewis Hamilton, who went on to win his 100th race, had pitted for intermediate tyres, but Norris was hellbent on sticking with the slicks despite the weather.
He soon realised he made the wrong call and lost complete control of the car as the rain continued to intensify.
“This f***ing … It’s full wet, boys,” he said. “I’ve got to box. I’m going to shunt. I can’t do this.”
Following the race, a dejected Norris expressed his frustrations his team didn’t give him firmer instructions to pit earlier.
“I didn’t know there was going to be a lot, lot more rain,” he told The Race. “And there’s no way of me knowing unless they tell me there’s going to be a lot more rain, which they didn’t.
“I decided to stay out because the team said it was only meant to be drizzling like that and that’s as hard as the rain was going to get.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t know or see or anticipate that it was not just going to be a drizzle, it was going to be a lot of rain. And that’s where we went wrong at the end of the day.”
Norris would go on to finish seventh while his team-mate Ricciardo came home in fourth.
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