The 2021 Russian Grand Prix was about to crown Lando Norris as the winner of the race, voted by the public as “Driver Of the Day", and who, about five laps from the end of the race, was firmly in the lead.
To ruin the dream of the McLaren's driver to win his first ever race in Formula 1, however, was the rain that surprised everyone on the Sochi circuit, combined with the decision by the Britishman not to return immediately to the pits to change his tyres with intermediates.
The Britishman, in the lead for most of the race, remained on the track with slick tyres despite the heavy rain, badly recommended by the garage, as he reveald.
A Sunday, and a dark mood for both, perhaps a bit more so for the 22-year-old, who also had to deal with a possible penalty after the race, for crossing the painted area between the Pit Entry and the track.
However, the Stewards, after a meeting with the driver and a McLaren representative, decided not to penalise Norris, by giving him just a reprimand.
They said: “The Stewards took into account that on the previous lap the driver of Car 4 had passed through Turn 17 (adjacent to the Pit Entry) at a relatively high speed, without loss of control. During the ensuing lap, the conditions deteriorated rapidly and were varied in different parts of the circuit. The driver slowed considerably on entering the Pit Entry, with his speed approximately half of his normal pit entry speed, but still lost control and slid across the painted area between the Pit Entry and the track,” the stewards explained in their penalty document.
“Although obviously the driver chose to remain out on the track on hard compound slick tyres when others chose to change to Intermediates, and therefore sought to gain an advantage in retaining his race position, we do not consider that the crossing of the painted area was intentional or predictable in the circumstances.”
Nonetheless, one driver was penalised for his actions during the race: Lance Stroll. The Canadian was handed a 10-second post-race penalty for spinning Pierre Gasly as the conditions started to deteriorate in the closing stages of the Grand Prix.
The stewards explained why they came to this decision: “Although noting the evidence of the driver of Car 18 that the conditions were extremely slippery especially as he was on old hard tyres, the Stewards determined that it was still the responsibility of the driver to ensure that having left the track due to those very same conditions, he drove appropriately taking them into account when he re-joined and turned into the next corner, considering there were two other cars in close proximity.”