Exactly how much have McLaren’s F1 racing mistakes cost this year?

McLaren would be just a handful of points behind Red Bull in an epic battle for the 2024 Formula 1 title had it avoided mistakes and capitalised on missed winning opportunities in the first half of the campaign.

Last weekend’s British Grand Prix marked the 12th of the current season’s 24 races, with Max Verstappen and Red Bull leading the two championships they have won in the past two years – or three in the Dutchman’s case in the drivers’ championship.

Red Bull currently has a 71-point lead over Ferrari in the constructors’ standings, with McLaren third, seven points further back.

But the orange team is now looking ahead to another victory that was almost lost this season, after Lewis Hamilton’s triumph for Mercedes in a race in which McLaren led 1-2.

He lost this position in the dry-wet-dry thriller due to three critical pit-stop errors: the team failed to place Oscar Piastri behind Lando Norris for the first stops, and then fitted soft rather than medium tyres to Norris’ car for his second service, where his slide beyond his pit marks and resulting delay essentially made the difference in Hamilton getting back ahead.

ALSO: Repeated mistakes are costing Norris and McLaren too many F1 wins

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella said afterwards that “accidents are first and foremost a good news point of view.”

“We hadn’t had these kinds of risky situations until 12 months ago,” he added. “And first of all, we have to look at the positive. We have to take into account the fact that the team is in a position to feel frustrated (after Silverstone) because we are in third place on the podium and the other driver in fourth. And, once again, the team has scored the majority of the points, right?

Watch: British GP race recap: Hamilton back on top

“So, if we don’t start from the positive, from the construction side, we will be the ones who ‘build and destroy, build and destroy’ and we will always remain at the same level.”

While it is true that McLaren’s year-on-year performance relative to Red Bull and the other leaders is vastly improved following its steady improvements since June 2023, if things had gone its way in just five races this season it could have a total of six GP wins and not one – Norris’s breakthrough triumph in Miami.

The races where McLaren’s mistakes, big or small, made a decisive difference were: Monaco, Canada, Spain, Austria and Silverstone. In the latter case, there are two different theoretical outcomes if one or both pit-stop errors had been avoided.

In Monaco, if Piastri had managed to string together all his best sectors at the end of Q3, he would have overtaken eventual winner Charles Leclerc on the grid and the grand prix victory would have been virtually assured.

Norris could have won again in Canada without sitting out another lap in his attempt to overtake George Russell and Verstappen after his unfortunate loss of time under the safety car, as the gap he needed was there fleetingly.

In Barcelona, ​​Norris’s costly and slow pit stops and the Briton’s feeling that he pushed too hard, too soon, on the tyres in his final stint behind Verstappen made more of a difference than Russell’s quick exit much earlier.

Next time out in Austria, Norris might have beaten Verstappen without his crash, for which the stewards judged the McLaren driver partly, but not “predominantly”, at fault, as Verstappen was, as well as considering his track limits violations.

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 3rd position, Parc Fermé

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 3rd position, Parc Fermé

Photograph by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Assuming McLaren had taken all those risks and nothing else had changed in the finishing order, the constructors’ championship would change according to this model.

Red Bull would remain in first place, but their total would drop from 373 points to 364, with McLaren in second place on 351, just a 13-point gap between them.

Ferrari would drop to third place, 56 points further back, while Mercedes’ position in fourth place remained unchanged but only slightly reduced (214 instead of 221).

Had McLaren taken a one-two at Silverstone (assuming Norris had finished ahead of Piastri in the order established before the first pit stops), the gap to Red Bull would be reduced to just four (361 to 357), with Mercedes’ total further reduced to 211.

If we apply the same assumptions for these races and their theoretical results to the drivers’ standings, Verstappen would still be in front, but Norris would be just 26 points back in second place instead of 84.

For comparison, halfway through the 2021 season, Hamilton led Verstappen by just eight points.

But back to the 2024 alternative, the world champion could also have five wins instead of seven, with Norris up to four, Piastri with one and Leclerc deprived of his only victory since 2022.

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 1st position, celebrates his first win in the Parc Fermé

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 1st position, celebrates his first win in the Parc Fermé

Photograph by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Again, considering McLaren’s possible defeat at Silverstone (1-2), Norris could be just 23 points behind Verstappen.

In each case, in the drivers’ standings, Leclerc falls behind teammate Carlos Sainz by one place and three points; the two currently occupy third and fourth in the real championship for Ferrari, with the Monegasque driver ahead.

Considering 2024 is now tipped to be a very exciting year compared to last year’s drab season, it’s possible that without McLaren’s mistakes F1 could be enjoying another unforgettable campaign.

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