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Stella highlights the ‘important’ lessons McLaren learned from Sochi 2021 after Norris’s breakthrough win

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Andrea Stella has insisted that McLaren always felt Lando Norris was “winning material” as he reflected on the Briton’s rollercoaster ride to the top step of the F1 podium – fuelled by a previous and agonising near-miss.

Norris became a Grand Prix winner at the 110th time of asking in Miami last time out, overcoming Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to deliver the perfect response to the social media memes that had been building up against him in recent times.

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It also banished the demons of painfully losing out on what would have been a maiden win at the 2021 Russian Grand Prix, where the youngster stayed out on slick tyres amid a late rain shower and slid out of the lead – eventually finishing seventh.

In an appearance on the F1 Nation podcast, McLaren team boss Stella was asked to look back on that Sochi weekend some two-and-a-half years ago and share any lessons the squad and Norris had learned – prompting him to list some other recent examples.

“I think what Lando said about himself, ‘I’m ready to win races more than ever,’ that’s what I see,” began Stella. “I saw the work that went in during the winter and that started already last year, reviewing some of the sessions.

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Norris ended his wait for an F1 victory at the Miami International Autodrome just over a week ago

“There was a qualifying session in Mexico, where we didn’t pass Q1, and we were pushing when we didn’t need to push. The car would have been quick enough – why were we pushing 100%?

“All these little elements where you have a lot to learn, they really went through very thoroughly by Lando, by the team, and [we] took all the opportunities to see how we can improve. I saw the work being done at a high level in a very committed way.

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“Lando wanted to make sure if the car is good, ‘I need to be ready’. Over the winter, we kept telling Lando, ‘Wow, the car looks promising, mate!’

“I think this gave him the motivation – ‘I don’t want to be on the back foot if the car is ready’ – because he knows that Oscar [Piastri] is getting ready very, very rapidly as well.”

Race Highlights: 2021 Russian Grand Prix

At this point, Stella reiterated the faith McLaren have had in Norris from the very start of his F1 career as he underlined what McLaren would do differently if they were presented with the Russia 2021 scenario today.

“We knew Lando was winning material,” continued Stella, with Norris debuting for McLaren back in 2019. “It was up to us to give him the car to be able to do so and, at the first opportunity, he delivered.

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“We go back to Russia – an important learning as well along the same lines. You review, you understand how you have to improve. That one was very important for the team as well.

“I think the team picked out of Russia more than what actually Lando picked out of that race, because the call should have come from the team to pit in Russia. It was our responsibility in that case, we learned our lesson and we move forward.”

Norris and McLaren will be looking to continue their positive trajectory at this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with the driver and team finishing on the podium in the last two races at the Imola circuit.

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