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Andrea Stella on Oscar Piastri grid penalty and Max Verstappen toe

McLaren team principal says Max Verstappen is 'lucky' to be on pole

18 May at 20:00
  • Toby Nixon

McLaren's team principal, Andrea Stella, is one of the catalysts for McLaren's sudden push towards the front of the grid. The Italian was prepared for his team to be lining up in second and third on the grid. Unfortunately, second-place man Oscar Piastri was penalised after blocking Kevin Magnussen in Q1 and will now be starting from fifth place. Here's what Stella said regarding his team's performance after qualifying in the Emilia Romagna paddock.

McLaren must 'improve operations'

Stella didn't argue with the steward's decision to penalise Oscar Piastri. "If this is the assessment and the judgement of the stewards, we respect it. We need to improve our operations. We move on and hopefully tomorrow we will recover the positions that we lost today on the grid."

Piastri's penalty explained:

Stella explained why Piastri was penalised, saying that the young Australian was unlucky: "The warning from the race engineer was a little late, but actually, Oscar checks the mirrors as we have explained to the stewards. He sees that Magnussen is arriving, he assesses the situation, do I go to the left? There's grass, to the right there is grass. If I stop at the apex, I'm certainly going to impede. If I cut the chicane, I'm going on the gravel. So he realises the best thing to do is just to go through the chicane as fast as possible, which is what he does."

Verstappen 'lucky' to be on pole

"A toe in a track with this characteristic can happen. He was a little lucky there," Stella said about what could have been a difference between a Red Bull and McLaren pole position today.

"I think he also made a mistake though, in the final corner. The gaps are so close that it could have been a matter not necessarily of car performance and driver's merit. It could have been a mix of little things here and there, a gust of wind or finding the right tow at the right time. He could benefit from there, but I think this doesn't detract from the fact that I think he deserves to be in pole position. At the same time, we were in condition to be in pole position, but when the gaps are so close, then many factors are at play." McLaren are certainly in a position to be fighting for back-to-back race victories this weekend.