After a disappointing qualifying session, Norris and Ricciardo started in 11th and 12th with different tire strategies, trying to cover various scenarios in a bid to move up the standings.
But a lack of top speed due to McLaren’s trailing car meant neither driver managed to come back up, with Fernando Alonso’s slippery Alpine proving impossible to pass.
In the first stint, Ricciardo informed the team that he had the pace in hand compared to his teammate, but was told to stay put.
Ricciardo’s alternative strategy of starting in difficult terrain and then looking for mediums during an extended virtual safety car allowed him to exit ahead of Norris after his only pit stop.
It was then Norris who wanted to try his luck against the Australian in the closing stages, but again McLaren asked their drivers to stay in position and go in eighth and ninth respectively.
Both pilots accepted the order, with Ricciardo claiming that the two different instructions canceled each other out as Norris returned the favor to him to stay behind the other, although Norris felt that the two situations were not entirely comparable.
Seidl explained that the pressure from Esteban Ocon’s second Alpine behind them meant that leaving his two drivers to fight made little sense, especially as neither seemed remotely capable of challenging Alonso up front.
“I think what we heard on the radio is what you would like to hear from every racing driver, to be ambitious and try to have the best possible race for themselves,” Seidl said of the frustration of Norris at the time.
“That’s why there’s a team in place that makes sure we have the best possible result for the team without risking losing two cars on the track by crashing into each other.
“If Daniel had gone through Lando at the start of the race, we would have just ended up in a yo-yo like we’ve seen with other teams this year, both stuck behind Alonso and risking Ocon in makes cross at least one of these cars.
“Our idea was to maintain the position of the two cars behind Fernando, thus ensuring that we kept Ocon under control, which we did.
Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Seidl added that his riders are free to race in principle, but circumstances dictate otherwise this time around. Asked by Motorsport.com if the perilous nature of the Baku street circuit played a part, Seidl replied: “Yeah, it always depends on the circumstances.
“Our riders are free to race, and we always try to provide both riders with the same opportunities to do well, because that’s our responsibility.
“But if we have different strategies and so on, obviously you have to make sure as a team that you maximize the result for the team.”
The team don’t think they could have done anything else to get ahead of Alonso, as failing to follow the strategy would have thrown him into traffic, and he lacked the top speed to release it.
“I think the only chance of having Fernando was probably if he also stopped with Lando, maybe at the first virtual safety car on lap eight or ninth where several cars stopped,” Seidl explained. .
“But with our lack of straight-line speed that we’ve had all weekend, we knew if we did that and we got into traffic, we wouldn’t be able to clear that traffic quickly because of our straight line deficit. Different from [Pierre] Gasly, for example, we would have come out of the race completely.
“And that’s why it was the right thing to do and stay with Fernando, to see if other opportunities would arise as well trying to overtake, for example making sure to keep your medium tires in the first stint in a happy place that you can then push when the car in the front boxes.
“But with the tires not really having much left, we just had to settle into the position where we started with Lando. With everything I’m seeing right now, I think we’ve pretty much maxed out that we had. I think it just wasn’t possible to do more with the package we had here.”