At the past Austrian GP which took place in the Red Bull Ring, a certain and clear topic became the center of attention of polemics. Between investigations during the progress of the race, and decisions made post the race itself, the race stewards on charge sanctioned a total of 10 times with time penalties that influenced the course and final result of some drivers' race results.
Punctually, the incidents in the eye of the storm were the ones involving Lando Norris and Sergio Pérez when, battling for P3 on the race, the British driver moved to close the overtaking chance the Mexican had, and the Red Bull driver went directly to the gravel, losing seven positions.
And everyone had something to say about the moment that dictated the next time-penalties on the race.
“From my point of view, I think if I were to compare it to anything, it’s the same as Max and Lewis in Imola, same thing as that. It’s lap one, or it’s a restart, and I think Sergio, maybe he doesn’t know there’s gravel on the exit of that corner and it’s downhill, it’s easy to run wide and it was just what happens,” as reported by RaceFans.net, Lando Norris referenced the incident that took place at Imola three months ago, when Max Verstappen forced Lewis Hamilton wide in the Tamburello chicane at Imola and was therefore not punished.
“You watch Formula 2 or Formula 3 or any category and people who try to go around the outside there and don’t commit to it end up in the gravel. That’s just the way that corner runs.”
“So he took the risk and not me. He didn’t commit to his overtake the way he should have done and he put himself in the gravel. So I don’t feel it was my mistake but I don’t make the penalties.”
F1’s Race Director Michael Masi justified Norris’ penalty talking about how the comparison made by the Briton was invalid in incidents like the ones that occurred at such different circuits.
“All lap one incidents are treated in a more lenient manner and that has been the case for a number of years under the ‘let them race’ principle, let’s call it.”
“But each and everyone is obviously it’s very difficult to try and compare. I know everyone likes to group everything, but it’s very difficult to compare two completely different corners a la Imola and either turns four or six. In Sergio’s one with Lando, he was wholly alongside Lando and therefore there is an onus to leave a car’s width to the edge of the track,” Masi explained.
Christian Horner did also speak his mind on Norris penalty, pointing the total responsibility of the race-stewards of not being able to judge properly the action that, according to the Red Bull Team Principal, later lead to the race-referees having no option but to judge Sergio Pérez with the same harsh perspective.
The Mexican received a 5s time penalty twice for allegedly pushing Charles Leclerc off the track.
“I was okay with the incident between Checo and Lando, that’s racing. You go around the outside, you take the risk. Particularly when you’re not in a position that you’re ahead.”
“The FIA, having awarded that penalty, then couldn’t not award a penalty for a very similar move with Charles,” said Horner.
“You know if you go around the outside, you take the risk particularly if you’re not ahead. So I think the penalties were a bit harsh and it sort of does slightly go against the ‘let them race’ mantra that we’ve been championing in recent years.”
Christian Horner having to manifest his unease with the incidents, Andreas Seidl could not be left behind. The McLaren Team Principal. The German even quoted Masi when talking about “six-year-old go-kart drivers and finally stated a vision of how the racing episode happened.
“I don’t understand why he got a penalty there.” said Seidl post-race. “That is, for me, racing that we all want to see and I don’t think that Lando did anything wrong.”
“It was, in addition, at the beginning of the race where everyone needs to settle in first. He was just going on his racing line. He didn’t do anything stupid and do some dive-bombing or whatever. He was always parallel to him or even slightly ahead of Checo. So honestly, I don’t understand.”
“I also don’t understand why, for example, the driver steward doesn’t bring more across there, what’s actually going on there in this first race lap for a race driver. It will be interesting what we hear from Michael on this.”
“I would say, to speak in Michael’s words, every go-kart driver knows that if you go there to the outside, the first race lap, you will end up in the gravel. But you can’t complain about the guy that was on the racing line.” He concluded.