Debris from Charles Leclerc’s damaged front wing was the cause of Lando Norris’ early pitstop in the Japanese Grand Prix.
Leclerc made contact with Max Verstappen and Turn 2, damaging his front wing in the process, but stayed out for an additional two laps before finally pitting to replace it.
Although Leclerc felt that his car was running OK, his wing was rubbing along the floor, dropping debris on to the circuit before his endplate finally broke free, nearly hitting the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
Norris, who had a strong start to move up to sixth on the opening lap, having started eighth, collected some of the debris left behind by the Ferrari, forcing him to make an early first stop due to his brakes overheating, and the 19-year-old felt it cost him a lot of points, after eventually crossing the line 13th.
“I made a really good start and managed to get to the outside of a few drivers at Turn One.” commented Norris after the race.
“Then there was contact ahead of me, debris and guys spinning.
“I had to slow down, unfortunately, and gave up a position or two but was still P6 I think.
“In the chaos, I collected some debris in the brakes, which meant I had to box really early on and then the rest was pretty straightforward.”
“I did what I could but I always struggled towards the end with the tyres and just couldn’t make enough progress to come back through.
McLaren Team Principal, Andreas Seidl was critical of Leclerc’s decision to stay out on track with the damaged front wing and that Norris’ race was over as soon as he was forced to pit early.
But, while Norris’s race was scuppered by the debris, his team-mate Carlos Sainz had yet another strong race finishing fifth behind the Red Bull of Alex Albon, and Seidel felt it was a “great execution” from his team.
Speaking after the race, Seidl said: “Great execution today from the entire team, and 10 more points in the bag, extending our lead over the teams with whom we are fighting in the Constructors’ Championship.”
“It was a sensational drive from Carlos to P5 – but we have mixed feelings because we might’ve had Lando up there as well.
“We obviously strongly disagree with competitors leaving cars on track with entire front wing endplates hanging off and putting everyone else at risk.
“After Leclerc’s endplate finally exploded, Lando unfortunately caught some of the debris in his right front brake duct.
“This meant he had to box early, and his race was pretty much done.
“Overall, it’s the positives we take away from Suzuka. The team here at the track, together with the support from home, put in a lot of hard work to get the best out of an unusual weekend – and a very long Sunday!”