McLaren has explained that its choice to place Lando Norris on fresh Soft tyres for the restart in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix emanated from a desire to chase victory.

Having only qualified sixth, Norris instantly elevated his way up to second at the start before the race was red-flagged due to a multi-car collision on the run to Turn 1.

Upon the restart, McLaren elected to replace Norris’ used Soft tyres with a brand-new set to apply pressure to Max Verstappen, who had opted to retain his starting rubber.

McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella explains that its decision derived from Norris’ lightning launch opening up the chance to seize the lead from the Red Bull.

Asked by Autosport whether McLaren sensed it could defeat Verstappen in Sunday’s grand prix, Stella said: “I think certainly in terms of our approach, especially after the red flag, we wanted to win it.

“At the start, we put our best set of Softs on, so we decided to start on a new set, so we could try and take the lead. And from there, put Verstappen in an unusual position and see what we could do. Maybe we could just cover anytime he pits and so on.”

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19 and Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL60. 05.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race Day.

However, McLaren’s gamble was thwarted at the earliest opportunity as Verstappen aced the launch once again on the second starting start to be unopposed into the first turn.

While Norris stayed within touching distance across the opening stages and lined up a move on the seventh lap, the Dutchman remained ahead and escaped DRS range.

Stella asserts that Norris swiftly had to drop back following his initial attack to preserve his tyres and avoid compromising his race against Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.

“We couldn’t take the lead at the launch,” he added. “We went very close to doing it on track, but after that our tyres started to overheat and we needed to think about achieving our target lap times, because [Alonso] wasn’t that far behind at that stage and it seemed like he could stay with us.

“Certainly, we tried hard in the first stint. I think after that, Verstappen once again, he had enough lead to actually manage the situation.

“I think anytime we tried to get a little closer, even there were a few laps in the second stint in which we seemed to go [closer], then he could put together a couple of mega laps. After the first stint, there wasn’t very much we could do.”

Although Norris marginally bagged pole position for Saturday’s Sprint race, the Briton was pipped to Turn 1 by Verstappen, who streaked clear to win the 24-lap encounter.

Amid Red Bull’s edge in tyre management, Stella admits it also recognised the restart represented the Woking squad’s optimum moment to disrupt Verstappen’s race.

“That’s why we wanted to take the lead on new tyres and try to change this kind of destiny that would have happened with Verstappen leading race,” he explained.

“We wanted to break this kind of continuity but unfortunately, we missed it. Not by very much, but maybe one metre, to be able to actually pass. After that, it was pretty much a repeat [of the Sprint].”

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