McLaren’s Lando Norris has been demoted three places down the grid for tomorrow’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix after race stewards decided he hadn’t followed the rules for complying with red flags.
There were four red flag stoppages in total during the course of the session: two in Q1 for Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi, a second in Q2 when Norris’ team mate Daniel Ricciardo crashed, and a final one at the end of Q3 triggered by Yuki Tsunoda.
It was the one caused by Giovinazzi which resulted in a summons to see the race stewards after the session, who decided on a penalty of three grid places plus three penalty points on his superlicence.
The problem was that Norris – who was running down the long straight on the Baku Street Circuit when the red flags came out – failed to come down pit lane at the earliest opportunity when the session was stopped as he should have done.
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Instead Norris radioed the McLaren pit wall to ask his race engineer whether he should come in or stay out. “Should I box or continue?” he adked., to which the team replied: “If you can, box.”
However Norris then said: “I can’t, I’m too late”, and so he continued for another lap before pitting. The stewards immediately said they would review the incident after the end of qualifying, to Norris’ surprise.
“I didn’t even know I was under investigation, I’ll have to speak to the team,” he said when interviewed by Sky Sports F1 after the end of the session.
“I was in the middle, and I was continuing my lap and I didn’t know at what point to turn left, or go right,” he explained.
“I slowed down straight away, I don’t feel like I did anything wrong and I was going at quite a high speed going into the pits at that time,” he said. “I don’t know I need to speak to the team, but I don’t feel I’ve done anything wrong.”
However, after reviewing video evidence and talking with Norris and representatives of the team, the stewards confirmed a grid drop for Sunday.
“[Norris] was just on the long start-finish-straight when red flags were displayed,” a statement from the stewards reported. “Consequently, red lights were flashing on a panel on the left guardrail and on the car’s dashboard.
“During the hearing the driver admitted that he lifted the throttle, braked and was committed to and able to enter the pitlane,”
“At that moment he was not sure what to do and asked his team over the radio. Although the team ordered him immediately to enter the pits, it was too late and Norris crossed the finish line one more time.
“The Stewards assume that if a red flag is not respected during qualifying, a drop of 5 grid positions is appropriate.”
In fact a three place drop is more lenient than usual for a red flag infraction, with the stewards accepting Norris’ account of extenuating circumstances.
“If you consider that the driver only had a very short time to react due to his position on the track, a drop of three grid positions is sufficient as an exception.”
The extra penalty points mean that Norris has now collected eight over the last 12 months. If he were to receive four more during the timeframe then he would receive an automatic one-race ban.
Norris had qualified in sixth place for this weekend’s race, so the grid drop means he now drops to ninth place while Red Bull’s Sergio Perez receives a one place bump to sixth.
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda moves up to seventh with Fernando Alonso lining up in eighth in the Alpine. Norris’ team mate Daniel Ricciardo will start from 13th place after his Q2 crash.
“It’s just Baku, something always happens which can go wrong, and today didn’t work in our favour,” sighed Norris who lamented not having a final chance to improve his time in Q3.
“I felt confident in Q3, It was a messy Q1 and Q2 so it was difficult to get a good reading and get a nice clean lap in,” he said.
“Q3 we did the used tyre before, for the first run and did a decent lap, but I could’ve gone quicker on a new tyre.
“It’s a shame we didn’t get that last lap in because we definitely could’ve been two or three spots higher, but it happens.
“That was chaos,” he added later on Twitter. “Felt like we did a good job, but today just didn’t work in our favour and with the penalty I’m down in P9. It is the way it is, tomorrow is a new day.”
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