McLaren F1 Team will be leaving Spa-Francorchamps dreaming of what could have been after their big Belgian Grand Prix points potential fizzled out before the race even started.
After an exhaust failure on the way to the grid, Carlos Sainz Jr. was forced to retire from the race – half an hour before it even started. The Spaniard was understandably furious, having suffered a similar fate at Spa last year. Not only that, Sainz was due to start seventh, and would have no doubt been on for another ‘smooth operator’ drive if he could have held such a high position in the race.
McLaren were dejected, but they were certainly not as disheartened as Sainz, who said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ with how it all played out.
“ Having started from seventh and seeing how the race unfolded, we definitely missed a very strong chance to score big points and get a good result. So, I’m very far from happy.“
“It’s the second engine with issues this year and the frustration of losing points again is very tough. I strongly feel this is not the season we deserve so far. However, we’ll put it behind us and switch our focus to Monza tomorrow. We move on.”
Lando Norris: “A good race in the end”
Being the only starting McLaren on the grid, Lando Norris had a huge amount of pressure on his shoulders to deliver – and he did just that.
The Briton started in tenth after a Qualifying to forget, but wrestled his way up to seventh to take home six valuable points in the championship and give his team some consolation for misfortune in the other side of the garage.
Norris encountered a struggle in the race early on – nearly spinning on lap one, which compromised his aggression. However, he admits he is pleased with how his second Belgian Grand Prix unfolded.
“A good race in the end: tenth to seventh, so I’m pretty happy,” said Norris. “It was a tricky start – I don’t know what happened at the end of the back straight, there was some water or a bit of oil on track or something and I completely lost the rear.
“It put me down a few positions more than I wanted and set me back – but the rest of the race was really good.“
Lando also showcased his maturing strategic side, referencing how he waited for the perfect times to attack in order to maximise the result for his team.
“I controlled my pace when I had to, knowing that the Racing Points and Renaults were quick when we had a similar tyre life. I knew I might’ve been able to overtake and that’s what I did.
“I felt the car came on strong – it got better and better towards the end of the race and we managed to push forward a bit with some good pace. One more lap and I could’ve done something to get sixth, but I’m still happy with seventh.”
Seidl disappointed, but ultimately pleased with bittersweet Belgian Grand Prix
Team Principal Andreas Seidl was relatively content with a so-so weekend in Belgium. Although the team faced early pain with Sainz, Seidl recognises the pace that McLaren have had at this low-downforce track, and he is ‘positive’ about Lando’s impressive fightback to seventh.
He looks to further improve the speed of the MCL35 for the Autodromo Nazionale Monza next weekend and achieve a stronger finish with both cars to hold third in the Constructors’ Championship.
“It was damage-limitation today. Despite having a good race car here, we could only score six points. Carlos’ race was over before it began with a PU failure on his reconnaissance laps-to-grid, which forced us to retire the car before the start. Lando unfortunately lost two positions during the first lap, which compromised his race.“
“On a positive note, Lando drove a great race to fight his way back up to P7, and that result lifts us back up to P3 in the Constructors’ Championship, taking points away from both Racing Point and Ferrari. The team in the garage and back at the MTC did an excellent job to stay focussed after the big disappointment with Carlos and executed Lando’s race perfectly, including a very good pit-stop.”
“[Now] we reset and prepare for the Italian Grand Prix. We’ve seen here that we can compete on the low-downforce tracks, which should put us in a good position for a fight with our closest rivals at Monza.”