Following a bout of frustration during the recent Dutch Grand Prix, McLaren’s star driver Lando Norris made headlines. He openly voiced his anger at the decision to continue racing on slicks in the rain, with a fiery message to his race engineer: “Are you stupid.”
Upon reflecting on his passionate radio outburst during a post-race interaction in Monza, Norris admitted that his fierce approach on air was unexpected, even to himself. He affirmed that he certainly did not plan to be disrespectful.
Looking back on the incident, Norris confessed, “When you look at it after you always think ‘I make myself look like an idiot’ and I get that.” He continued, “But the people I speak to know that I would never mean something like that, of course.”
Norris also highlighted that his radio transmissions often seem to portray him as whiny, a perception he is not fond of. “I always sound like I’m crying or moaning on the radio, I don’t know why. I hate it!” he said.
Contrarily, team principal Stella didn’t seem perturbed by the drama spurred by Norris’ heated comments. He believed that the team thrives better when confronted with rigorous challenges by their drivers, compared to mere passivity.
Defending Norris, Stella stated, “He was obviously frustrated because he realised that we were missing an opportunity by staying out one lap too much.” Stella disclosed this at Monza, adding, “This is what champions do. We like this character. We want to be heavily challenged by the driver. And we can be heavily challenged because our culture is strong, we can bear with that.”
He further expressed his preference for spirited debates over docile acceptance. He said, “We’d rather have this kind of challenge than a passive driver that just takes everything and doesn’t contribute to the development of the team. So, for us, this episode is not a problem at all.”
Despite the fiery interaction, Stella appreciated Norris for quickly resolving the matter with his engineers post-race. He hinted that while Norris might aim to temper his radio commentary moving forward, the team is well-prepared to deal with his candid commentary. Stella noted that the Briton’s impromptu outburst stirred more controversy outside the team, especially on social media, than within.
Stella elaborated, “I talked about culture before and this means that you have awareness of what racing is, you have awareness of how you should take drivers’ comments and just make use of it as long as they are constructive and just dismiss all the rest.”
Stella emphasized that they are cognizant of the potential implications. “We are very aware of that. And Lando himself, he is aware that he came across tough to the team. But then he dealt with it immediately after the race with the quality of the person and the driver that we all know. For us, the matter is closed.”
Regarding Norris’ self-perception, Stella said, “In terms of how Lando perceives himself, I’m sure he will make some adaptations to his tone and pitch and so potentially we will hear Lando speaking in a slightly different way so that he comes across in a way that is closer to what he expects of himself.”
Stella concluded, “But for us, we are happy, and we just have to make sure we support him as well as he deserves.”