Formula 1 Racing

McLaren surprised upgraded F1 car had Red Bull-beating pace

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 1st position, Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren F1 Team, on the podium

A perfectly timed safety car period during his pitstop window allowed Norris to lead Verstappen at the restart, where many would have expected the Red Bull to come through and then pull away.

Instead, Norris was not only able to stay in front and break DRS on the opening lap, but he then comfortably edged his way out in front as he reeled off a succession of faster laps.

In the end, Norris came home 7.612 seconds clear of Verstappen, who admitted afterwards that he did not have the car he needed to take the fight to the McLaren.

Speaking to Sky, Stella said that the performance of the McLaren against the Red Bull had not been anticipated.

Asked about Verstappen having no answer for Norris, Stella said: “We knew that the car was quick, [although] it’s a bit of a surprise. But we take it positively and we take it for the future as well.”

Stella had long had faith about Norris’s talents and had stood by him during some difficult moments where the Briton had blamed himself for costly mistakes.

But through it all, Stella said that he knew that as soon as McLaren gave him machinery capable of winning then he would be able to do it.

“Many firsts,” added Stella. “The most important is the first victory for Lando because he deserved it so much.

“We always said that as soon as we give him the right material, he is going to make it, and he made it. For me, my thoughts are with the men and women at McLaren.”

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 1st position, Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren F1 Team, on the podium

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Dedicated to de Ferran

Stella and McLaren CEO Zak Brown both dedicated the win to former McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferran, who passed away in December.

“This victory is for Gil de Ferran,” said Stella.

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Brown believed that the way the race panned out, with circumstances providing Norris with every opportunity, was down to the ongoing influence of both de Ferran and the late McLaren part-owner Mansour Ojjeh, who died in 2021.

“This is long overdue, and this is a very popular win amongst the fans and the drivers,” said Brown.

“The drivers went up to him to congratulate him. He drove perfectly.

“The car was really fast and I think Gil de Ferran and Mansour had something to do with today.

“Building up these Formula 1 teams doesn’t happen overnight, a huge contribution from 1,000-plus people back at McLaren, so I want to thank all the…

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