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Ralf Schumacher has claimed the McLaren weatherman is responsible for their ill-fated decision not to react to changing weather conditions which cost Lando Norris a race win at the Russian Grand Prix last time out. The young Brit was left devastated after losing out on his maiden F1 victory in Sochi, after deciding to try to finish the race on slick tyres despite a sudden downpour.
He was leading the race, but was slow to react as heavy showers rolled in off the Black Sea and dowsed the track with only a handful of laps to go.
While others dived into the pits, Norris responded with a clear “No!” when asked over team radio what he thought about pitting for intermediate tyres.
But the gamble didn’t pay off, and Norris was left crawling around corners and slipping all over the place while Lewis Hamilton, who had pitted for fresh rubber, flew past and went on to take his 100th race win in F1.
Ralf, the brother of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, was clear in his opinion that the fault for the error lies at the door of the team’s weatherman rather than the driver.
“The fault lay with the McLaren weatherman,” he said in his column for Sky Sport Germany.
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“Team boss Seidl said to Sky that they had assumed light rain and that Norris had therefore been left out.
“There’s nothing the driver can do about that. If he had gone against his team, it probably would have been different, but he just didn’t have the information that the team has. But his crew just had the wrong information.”
Schumacher went on to say, with the benefit of hindsight, how he would have dealt with the situation.
“I would have brought him in one lap after Hamilton to at least bring home second place,” the German said.
“Even a slightly damp track makes it much harder for the driver to drive. A few splashes don’t matter, but when it’s wet all over the surface, the slicks lose all grip, it’s like driving on soap.”
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Norris said he was “heartbroken” in a post on social media after the Grand Prix, and later said he needed more information from his team in that moment – though during the race he did tell engineer Will Joseph to “shut up”.
“I didn’t know there was going to be a lot, lot more rain,” he told The Race. “And there’s no way of me knowing unless they tell me there’s going to be a lot more rain, which they didn’t.
“I decided to stay out because the team said it was only meant to be drizzling like that and that’s as hard as the rain was going to get.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t know or see or anticipate that it was not just going to be a drizzle, it was going to be a lot of rain. And that’s where we went wrong at the end of the day.”
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