The difference between Radio messages from Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris on the McLaren pit wall in the last stages of the Russian GP affected by the rain showed the small margin of error with which the pilots are working.
Norris had qualified on pole and led most of the race without incident until a downpour of rain hit the Sochi circuit with only a handful of laps to go before the checkered flag.
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This sparked widespread confusion and a frenzy in the pits as teams scrambled to find the best option – switch to wet tires and abandon the position on the track, or try to hold out on slicks as the track was getting wetter and wetter.
Norris faced the toughest call of any driver, leading the race but with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton just behind him.
Behind them more and more competitors crowded into the pits, including Ricciardo, whose timely stoppage earned him an impressive fourth place.
Up front however, Norris and Hamilton were finding it increasingly difficult to keep the car on the track as the rain continued to fall.
With his first F1 win on the line, Norris was inclined to stay out for as long as possible.
Norris’ conversation with engineer Will Joseph was engaged with his pilot for several laps as they debated whether or not to go in for the rains – but at every turn Norris chose to stay out.
“Four (laps) to go after this one, four after this one,” Joseph said.
“Some cars stopped for the inter. (Valtteri from Mercedes) Bottas is already gone.
“Very slippery track from here to turn 10. A lot of cars are starting. “
An irritated Norris rejected the initial demands, before agreeing that they had to engage on the slick tires after Hamilton stopped on lap 50 of 53 – a decision that ultimately won him the race.
“This fucking… it’s completely wet guys,” Norris said on lap 51. “I have to box. I’m going to shunt. I can’t do this.
Lando Norris disaster contrasts sharply with Daniel Ricciardo’s strategic call
With Norris under pressure at the front of the field, there were still plenty of points to offer Ricciardo if he timed his save correctly.
With less pressure to keep the track position for the win, Ricciardo and his engineer Tom Stallard were able to communicate more clearly on the track condition and the incoming rain.
After pointing out how slippery the track got on laps 47 and 48, Ricciardo stopped on lap 49 and walked away with 4th place for his problems.
After the race, Ricciardo said it was up to the drivers to make crucial calls in changing conditions, while Norris felt he did not have enough information on how much rain was expected to hit the circuit in the last laps.
“I had no idea there was going to be a lot, a lot more rain,” Norris said in an interview with The race.
“And there’s no way to know unless they tell me it’s going to be a lot more rain, which they haven’t.
“I decided to stay outside because the team said it was just drizzle like that and it’s as hard as the rain was going to get.
“For some reason, we didn’t know, didn’t see, or didn’t anticipate that it wouldn’t just be drizzle, but a lot of rain. And that’s where we went wrong at the end of the day.
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