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Norris: No regrets on McLaren's "aggressive" F1 Saudi Arabian GP strategy call

Lando Norris has no regrets about an “aggressive” strategy call in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, suggesting that his McLaren Formula 1 team sometimes plays it a “little bit safe”.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, makes a pit stop

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Norris was one of only four drivers who opted to gain track position by not stopping when Lance Stroll’s crash triggered a safety car period early in the Jeddah race and having started sixth he was left in the lead at the restart, until Max Verstappen got by two laps later.

As with fellow non-stoppers Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu, the hope was that a later safety car or virtual safety car period would allow him to make a cheap pitstop.

However, the race ran interrupted to the chequered flag, and in fact Norris was obliged to make an earlier stop than the team had planned in order to cover Hamilton, who switched to softs in the closing laps. He eventually finished eighth, two places down on his grid position.

“You never know at the time, and we wanted to try something different, and not just stay behind,” said Norris when asked by Autosport about the call to remain on track and not pit.

“We could have gained a lot of points, or we could have lost a few. And in the end, we lost a few. But that's just the way it is sometimes. So it was a good try, I think it was the correct call to make.

“Sometimes I feel like we're a little bit safe. It's nice to be a little bit more aggressive, and try something different. So I'm happy with our decision. It wasn't the best one, or let's say the correct one. But that's in hindsight. I'm still happy with how we tried to execute it all.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Norris confirmed he was obliged to follow Hamilton’s strategy by switching to soft tyres a lap after the Mercedes driver stopped.

“I had to, if I went on the hards, he would have got me,” he said. “The hards just take a couple more laps to come in. He was very close to getting me anyway. I would have chosen to go onto the softs.

“I could have gone to the chequered flag on the medium, I was very happy with that. Obviously, the pace was not great compared to the guys around.

“The softs were the correct thing, but five laps later. I don't think we did the best strategy. But I had to cover Lewis, so that had us over a little bit. We gave it the best effort we could.”

The switch to softs gave Norris a chance to catch Ferrari rookie Oliver Bearman ahead, but he just came up short, while successfully staying ahead of Hamilton.

“I think he drove a good race,” Norris said of the teenager. “The softs were good for two laps, and then they peaked, and they went off. So maybe a hard would have been good in hindsight again. But like I said, I couldn't do that because of Lewis.

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“Clearly the Ferrari is a very strong car. For [Bearman] to jump in and to get so much out of the car on his first weekend is pretty impressive. fair play to him.”

Norris was fortunate to escape a penalty for moving and then stopping before the start lights went out. The incident was not caught by the transponder system on which the FIA stewards rely for such calls.

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