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Analysis
Formula 1 British GP

Exactly how much have F1 race mistakes cost McLaren this year?

McLaren's mounting mistakes in 2024 are in the spotlight following its British Grand Prix defeat

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, in the pits

McLaren would be just a handful of points behind Red Bull in an epic 2024 Formula 1 title battle, had it avoided errors and converted lost victory chances from the campaign's first half.

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

Red Bull is currently 71 points ahead of Ferrari in the constructors' standings, with McLaren third, seven points further back.

But the orange team is currently reflecting on another victory near-miss this season, following Lewis Hamilton's win for Mercedes in a race that McLaren had led 1-2.

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It lost this position in the dry-wet-dry thriller due to three critical pitstop errors: the team not double-stacking Oscar Piastri behind Lando Norris at the first stops, then fitting soft tyres and not mediums to Norris's car at his second service, where his slide past his pitbox marks and resulting delay essentially made the difference in Hamilton getting back ahead.

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella said afterwards that "the near misses is, first of all, a point of view of good news".

"We didn't have this kind of near- misses until 12 months ago," he added. "And first of all, we need to look at the positives. We need to look at the fact that the team is in a condition to be frustrated [after Silverstone] because we are P3 on the podium with the other driver P4. And once again, the team scored most points, right?

Watch: British GP Race Review - Hamilton Returns To The Top

"So, if we don't start from the positives, from the building side, we're going to be the ones that 'build and destroy, build and destroy' and we'll stay always at the same level."

While it is true that McLaren's year-on-year performance relative to Red Bull and the other frontrunners is massively better following its consistent upgrade gains since June 2023, had things gone its way in just five races this season, it could possess a GP victory tally of six and not one – Norris's breakthrough Miami triumph.

The races where McLaren errors – big or small – made a critical difference are Monaco, Canada, Spain, Austria and Silverstone. In the last named, there are two theoretically different outcomes had it avoided one or both of its pitstop blunders.

In Monaco, had Piastri strung together all his best sectors at the end in Q3 then he would've headed eventual winner Charles Leclerc on the grid, grand prix victory practically assured.

Norris might've won again in Canada without staying out an extra lap in his overcut attempt to jump both George Russell and Verstappen after his unfortunate safety car time loss, as the gap he needed was fleetingly there.

At Barcelona, costly slow pitstops for Norris and the Briton feeling he pushed a tad too hard, too early on his final stint tyres behind Verstappen made the difference more than Russell's rapid start much earlier.

The next time out in Austria, Norris might have beaten Verstappen without their crash, for which the McLaren driver was judged partly but not "predominantly" to blame by the stewards, as Verstappen was, plus considering his track limits violations.

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 3rd position, in Parc Ferme

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 3rd position, in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Assuming McLaren had instead taken all those chances and nothing else changed in the finishing order behind, the constructors' championship would change based on this model.

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

Ferrari would fall to third, 56 points further back, with Mercedes' position in fourth unchanged but just slightly reduced (214 instead of 221).

Had McLaren scored a 1-2 at Silverstone – assuming Norris finished ahead of Piastri as per their order before the first pitstops – the gap to Red Bull would close to just four (361 vs 357), with Mercedes' total down further to 211.

Applying the same assumptions for these races and their theoretical outcomes to the drivers' standings Verstappen would still be in front, but Norris would just be 26 points back in second instead of 84.

By way of comparison, at the halfway stage of the 2021 season, Hamilton led Verstappen by just eight points.

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

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 1st position, celebrates his maiden win in Parc Ferme

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, 1st position, celebrates his maiden win in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Again, considering McLaren's possibly lost Silverstone 1-2, Norris could be just 23 points back from Verstappen.

In each case for the drivers' standings, Leclerc drops behind his team-mate Carlos Sainz by one spot and three points – the pair currently possessing third and fourth in the real championship for Ferrari, with the Monegasque driver ahead.

Considering how 2024 is now being viewed as very exciting compared to the monotonous season last year, it's possible that without McLaren's mistakes, F1 could be enjoying another campaign for the ages.

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