window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'G-QV9HFVZD64'); Stella says McLaren and Red Bull 'don't have much choice' in Imola race author - TELCOTELCO

Stella says McLaren and Red Bull ‘don’t have much choice’ in Imola race

Lando Norris narrowly missed out on beating Max Verstappen at the Imola race, finishing just one second behind the Dutchman. Following Norris’s victory in Miami, McLaren team principal Andrea Stella understandably expressed satisfaction with the season’s progress.

While Stella appeared pleased with certain aspects of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, he also issued a warning – as the top-tier gap narrows, McLaren knows they need to be flawless in every aspect of the race weekend. They’re on the front foot, but that wasn’t the case in Italy.

“Weekend execution is always a key factor,” said Toto Wolff. “But now, when the margins are so tight, and the top three cars in qualifying are within a tenth of each other, it’s evident that how you operate, drive the race, and manage the tires could become the dominant factor.

“I think today there wasn’t much to choose between McLaren and Red Bull, other factors came into play.”

As for those other factors, Wolff quickly paid tribute to Verstappen’s talent and racing skills. But the Dutchman’s unexpected pole position on Saturday played a crucial role in the outcome of the race.

“I think we also saw the driver’s skill winning the race, and that’s Max Verstappen. But for us, it’s important to be there over the weekend knocking on the door of victory, just like at some stage, Ferrari looked to have the fastest car, and then Max showed up in qualifying, so it’s very variable, so it’s important to be there.

“Another thing I can say today is that it seemed like the dirty air played a significant role, so any time you have the rear marker [they] seem to play a role. So, getting pole, being in the lead in the first corner, can give you clean air, manage your tires somehow, and manage your pace.

“So, from that point of view, Max did a good job yesterday, got pole, and was in the lead in the first corner.”

McLaren’s latest upgrade seems to be the key in narrowing the gap on the stopwatch, with new track-specific components set to be provided for Monaco next weekend. However, they need to improve execution across all aspects of the race – unlike in Imola, where Oscar Piastri made an error in judgment when warning approaching cars, resulting in a penalty that saw him retire from the race.

Having two cars starting from the top three positions could make a significant difference on Sunday, as it would provide a buffer for Charles Leclerc, who at times has been the fastest car, and reduce the risk for Ferrari of being weakened in their timing for Norris’ pit stop under McLaren cover. This cost Norris precious seconds as he fell behind Sergio Perez and had to overtake the Red Bull.

But whether Norris’ later pit stop will have any effect on his pursuit of Verstappen remains unknown, as Stroll is sure to be held responsible for Piastri’s penalty, which robbed the Australian of a chance at the podium.

“We take responsibility for Oscar not making it to the podium because the obstruction was related to our operations, not Oscar’s mistake at all, it’s something the team caused. I believe he’ll have more opportunities in the future.”

McLaren sits third in the constructors’ standings, behind Red Bull and Ferrari, and will head to Monaco next weekend.

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