Norris surprised Leclerc didn’t pass Verstappen: ‘It’s worth the risk’

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc said he was unsure whether he should have passed Max Verstappen when the Red Bull driver spun off the track in front of him before the final restart in yesterday’s race.

However Lando Norris, who was running behind the pair at the time, said he would have leapt at the opportunity.

Verstappen was leading the queue of cars ahead of the restart of the race when he skidded off the track at Rivazza 1. Leclerc slowed down and allowed Verstappen to lead the queue.

“I had a great view of it,” said Norris. “It was quite funny actually.

“I think Charles could have gone past him in my opinion. At that stage Max was out of control and going left and Charles kind of just hit the brakes and slowed down and stopped. At some point he has to go past Max because he was facing the barrier for a lot of the corner.”

Passing Verstappen was a “risk worth taking”, said Norris
Although drivers are not allowed to overtake rivals during Safety Car periods, they may do so if a driver leaves the track, which Verstappen briefly did. Norris, who had a lap time deleted in qualifying for exceeding track limits, said yesterday he would have taken the chance to lead the race.

“We have to maybe ask the guys in charge what the exact ruling is for going off, as off-track, all four wheels off the track and example of yesterday – but at the same time Max was going very slow. Charles could have driven past him at the point.

“I’m not sure. I think if I was in P2, I would have gone for it, because you have a chance at winning then. It’s a risk worth it.”

Leclerc said he “considered” overtaking Verstappen, but said he had done the right thing by holding his position.

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“I considered this at one point, but at the same time I backed off. I think looking back at it, it was the right choice, because I think he always had one wheel on the track.

“So I backed off because he didn’t completely spin, obviously, as we’ve seen. I thought about it, but it was too late then, he was already back in front.”

Leclerc defended his decision to stay behind
FIA race director Michael Masi explained that had Leclerc passed Verstappen, the Red Bull driver would have been entitled to reclaim his position before Safety Car Line One, which was situated between Rivazza 2 and turn 19 at Imola.

“After a [race] suspension, it is considered a race lap, but in the same sort of principles as a formation lap,” he said. “So if a car was out of position, it would be like a formation lap that they can regain that position as long as it’s before [the Safety Car One line], is the general principle is the way the regulations are worded.”

Verstappen did not expect Leclerc to pass him when he went off. “I was off track for a bit, but once I was back on the track of course I was driving slow because I was recovering, getting my steering wheel straight,” the Red Bull driver explained.

“But then I don’t think you can pass any more. I think when you see a car drifting like that in front of you, first of all I think you just back out, because you don’t know where it’s going to go.

“It’s seconds. Maybe you have a chance of two or three seconds to do it. It’s so tricky out there with tyres. You don’t want to also react to it – maybe you spin yourself. It can happen.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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40 comments on “Norris surprised Leclerc didn’t pass Verstappen: ‘It’s worth the risk’”

  1. Such a fine margin, Leclerc would have had to have bolted as soon as Verstappen was sideways and there was only a couple of seconds window he could arguably pass. Once he’s semi recovered it’s too late. If he’d done it though, and bolted (it’s unclear whether leclerc was aware it was a rolling restart at this point as Binotto has claimed he was unawre due to his radio problems) Verstappen would have been required to come into the pitlane if he hadn’t repassed by the SC line. Would have had huge implications, with a Hamilton win and Verstapen struggling to score!

    1. And imagine if Leclerc had bolted. Norris and Perez behind would have done the same as well. But when those 2 would have overtaken, there was a chance that Verstappen would have ‘recovered’ by then thus causing a penalty to those 2.

      The rules are very vague here. What if its a ‘spin’ vs ‘half-spin’? Do all wheels need to be off track? How do you define the exact moment where you determine Verstappen has ‘recovered’. Thank God Leclerc didn’t overtake Max or there would have been massive discussions about the rules once again.

      Verstappen would have been required to come into the pitlane if he hadn’t repassed by the SC line

      That is only required for a standing start right? (e.g. Checo at Bahrain). Verstappen can just go racing whichever position he is in. Am I wrong?

      1. That is only required for a standing start right? (e.g. Checo at Bahrain)

        You would think, but that’s the exact reason that Raikonnen received his 30s time penalty!
        So much ambiguity again…

        “After a [race] suspension, it is considered a race lap, but in the same sort of principles as a formation lap,”

        First time I’d heard this. I presumed it was a SC restart, so SC rules apply. Otherwise why not let Verstappen lead them round. The lapped cars didn’t have a safety car leading them round to unlap. What if someone went off on that lap? Race hasn’t resumed yet, so I presume they regain their position? Who knows…

        1. Ohh wow. Just saw the Raikkonen penalty rationale and the actual video behind it as well.

          While Kimi spun at Tamburello, he had made it right on the tail of Tsunoda and Hamilton well before the SC line 1. So, he had enough time to overtake those 2 cars and not face any penalty at all. But just because he didn’t overtake (because generally under regular SC conditions, you don’t take back such positions), he not only lost those 2 positions but also got a 30 second penalty!

          This is a total mess of the regulations. And given the frequency of mid race red flags that we have got in recent times, these regulations are likely to create a farce of the results at the front of the field sometime soon.

          Hope FIA proactively simplifies or explains these rules better to fans. If we Fanatics also gets confused, how are the casual viewers expected to understand

          1. @sumedh Overtaking is allowed if it’s impossible to stay behind – but the driver doing the overtake has to prove it to the stewards, and the stewards aren’t obliged to provide that opportunity.

    2. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      19th April 2021, 12:06

      I watched the video again and it is far less than a second that all 4 wheels of Max where off the track.
      For the majority his rear right wheel remained on track, only when Max got the car straighten again was that wheel off the track but very shortly after his front right was on the track again.

      1. @jelle-van-der-meer I actually did the same thing and had the same impression. Unless Leclerc timed it perfectly and passed Verstappen within those couple of tenths, I don’t think it would be legal.

        1. But what if Verstappen had spun, stalled and remained on the race track at all times? Would everyone be penalised for overtaking him then? No I don’t think so. I don’t think whether he was off the track or not matters, but Leclerc probably did the right thing as although he came very close to losing it, Verstappen didn’t actually lose it fully.

          1. That’s a good point, haven’t thought of that. Although I don’t think it matters in this case as Verstappen kept his momentum. But you’re right, staying on track can’t be the only criterion.

          2. @Shaun If it’s impossible to stay behind, overtaking is allowed (otherwise, if a car broke down on the racing line during a Safety Car, we’d get a ridiculous stationary queue). As long as the stewards accept the reasoning. With hindsight, they probably would here, but I cannot object to Leclerc being careful in the moment (especially with the radio problem that Lando couldn’t possibly have known about at the time).

    3. @j4k3 Leclerc was not aware it was a rolling start that lap – he couldn’t receive radio messages at that point in the race.

      1. @alianora-la-canta I had also heard that, which would make the fact he only lost one place at the restart a minor miracle. The point regarding passing verstappen stands for a grid start as well though as Verstappen would be required to return to the pits. Although it would have been quite a sight to see leclerc pull up to the grid as all the cars behind were waiting for a rolling start!!

  2. This sport could really do with some rules that are easier to understand for drivers and viewers. The different treatments off Perez and Raikkonen makes no sense. The fact that Perez’ penalty was shown as a stop-and-go on the main feed also didn’t help understand what was going on. Also why was there a rolling start this time? What are the criteria for not doing a standing start?

    1. Rolling start was because a lot (or all) of cars were on slicks, on a damp circuit, that could have been a big pile-up. Masi explained that the rolling start counts as a formation lap, so Leclerc would have been told to give position. Perez was on a SC lap, so overtaking was not allowed.
      The rules are open for interpretation, in this case I think they were right to go for a rolling start.

      1. @wbravenboer Correction: Ferrari would have attempted and failed to tell Leclerc anything, as the receive part of the radio wasn’t working for him at that part of the race.

  3. As soon as VER went sideways I was shouting at the TV for Leclerc to pass and floor it! Personally I think he missed an opportunity for a win that other more experienced drivers, like HAM, would have taken.

    Sure, there was a risk the stewards might award a time penalty to the race time but this would have seemed harsh given VER was pointing towards the barriers and had most of his car off the circuit! I mean, would they have expected the train to come to a complete stop waiting for him to rejoin? In some ways that would seem more dangerous to me!

    1. “Having most of your car off the circuit” actually means “being on track”. If it would’ve been that bad that he really had a major off and the consequence being either the train to completely stop or pass him, then of course passing would be the valid option.

      Now however he was never stationary and only off-track for a fraction of a second (I think not even half a second). Not enough for being allowed to pass.

      It was different in Perez’s case.

  4. Just watch the onboards…all of this happened in a split second and VER never really left the track with all 4 wheels. Plus, he would have had to give the position back as this was a race re-start.

  5. someone or something
    19th April 2021, 12:12

    Considering what we’ve learned from Räikkönen’s penalty, the implications of this could’ve been huge.
    Had Leclerc managed to overtake Verstappen legally, he would’ve been entitled to set the pace immediately, thus making it impossible for Verstappen to rejoin his position by Safety Car line 1. In that case, Verstappen would’ve been required by the rules (i.e. Article 42.6 a of the Sporting Regulations) to “re-enter the pit lane and […] only re-join the race
    once the whole field has passed the end of the pit lane after the race has been resumed.”
    In other words: Verstappen would’ve either been relegated to the back of the field, or given a 10 seconds stop-and-go penalty (or 30 seconds time penalty after the race).
    With a 30 seconds time penalty, Verstappen would’ve finished behind Sainz, in 5th place.
    Isn’t it remarkable how such a seemingly minor incident could’ve drastically changed the outcome of the race?

    1. Amazing, right.

    2. I believe that’s just for the start, not for safety car restarts.

      Here he would have just been passed by some cars and would start from the position where he ended up having rejoined the track, as Perez should have.

      1. someone or something
        20th April 2021, 18:19

        No, sir. I referred to Räikkönen for a reason, and that reason is the fact that this race situation counted as a formation lap. The rules do not distinguish between a standing restart or a rolling restart behind the Safety Car, at least not in this regard. Literally the exact same thing happened to Räikkönen in the exact same lap. Räikkönen failed to regain his original position, then failed to enter the pitlane, so he was penalised. The exact same thing would’ve happened to Verstappen if Leclerc had reached Safety Car line 1 before him.
        See also Keith’s article with the exact same conclusion.

  6. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    19th April 2021, 12:21

    Marginal, probably could have gotten away with it with hindsight but I think Charles showed sensible maturity. The risk doesn’t warrant the reward.

  7. A few things from yesterday..

    • The Perez incident is a stupid rule in my opinion. The track was damp, he went off, two cars passed him, he rejoined and reclaimed his original position.
    First it creates an unsafe situation during safety car periods – which are meant for safe driving as marshalls work on the track and the tyres get cold (and more unsafe and unpredictable) – where once a car leaves the track even for a tiny bit, it “allows” the drivers behind him to floor it in order to overtake him as a free pass. It creates small racing windows where drivers still race each other, during what is supposed to be the most safe period for everyone.
    Unless a driver goes off and hits the wall or beaches his car, then there is no reason for other drivers to overtake him, or overtake him without give him his original position back once the driver that went off rejoins the track quickly.

    • The same thing applies to the Verstappen incident as well. If Leclerc tried to pass Verstappen there, as if the were racing, and Verstappen rejoined the track and wanted to maintain his position, there could have been a crash, due to this “gray zone” in the rules.

    • The rolling restart. This is the first time we’ve had a rolling restart after a red flag, after the rule of having “normal standing starts after a red flag” was introduced (if I remember correctly). And the reason was because the track was still damp and some drivers had slick tyres so for safety reasons basically.
    If you don’t want to have crashes because of this damp track+slick tyres, then MANDATE that everyone must have intermediates on at the next (standing) restart!!! as the stewards have done many times in the past. It was a red flag, everyone already changed tyres and put new ones anyway… and the track was less damp than in the original start of the race when everyone got off the line just fine. And after that, let everyone pit for new slicks if they wanted.
    But the way it was done, it seemed as the option that would disadvantage Verstappen the least…

    God, at every race since 2019, Masi seems like the most incompetent person in any F1 related job…

    1. I’m pretty sure that everyone was on slicks for the restart, as they were all ob slicks by the time of the red flag. To mandate they all restart on inters would mean a farcical first lap where everyone pits at the end of that lap for slicks. That’s even less safe having 19 cars charge into the pits in one go!
      Personally think they could have had a standing start in those conditions, but hey ho, I’m only an armchair expert.

      1. @eurobrun @mattds
        All I’m saying that there should be a consistency in the rules. After the rules about restarts after a red flag was changed sometime around 2018-19, we’ve had 4 races with standing restarts (2020: Italy, Tuscany x2, Bahrain).
        Personally I don’t care at all if a standing restart would disadvantage Verstappen the most/the least, if he won by 25sec or retired.. I just want consistency. But doing this restart differently than the others, kinda seems odd (not to imply that the stewards played favorites, it’s just Masi doing the usual horrible/inadequate job).

        Personally I didn’t see a problem even if they started on slicks, the track was starting to dry. They could have done a few more (2-3) formation laps as they use to in these situations to dry the circuit more.
        But if the stewards feel a restart with everyone on slicks on a semi-damp track is dangerous, then for safety reasons they can mandate that the cars should start on inters (or wets for example). This isn’t a new rule as far as I know. Usually in red-flaged wet races (the last one I remember was the 2016 Brazilian GP) or usual races that start on a wet track, the stewards can/used to mandate “everyone must start on full wets at the restart” as I can recall.. and after the first 3-4 laps usually everyone jumped into the pits for inters.

        1. @black the rules are consistent – they specify a standing start after red flag with the option available to the stewards to decide for a rolling start if they deem it necessary. Yesterday they decided to take that option.

          Italy 2020 was dry, Tuscany 2020 was dry, Bahrain … was dry I guess? So they followed default procedure. Conditions yesterday were more tricky, while the track certainly had a dry racing line, it was still damp on a considerable part of the track outside of the racing line. The run-up to T1 showed as much. Grip levels uneven on the grid would penalize those starting on damp parts, and the braking zone being visibly damp to wet would be a big risk. That’s what was different to your examples given and that’s why they made the decision.

          To adress your last point – no, a steward cannot mandate everyone to start on inters. The regulations do not provide that option. They DO provide the option for the stewards to mandate full wets, but only in case of heavy rain. Which was not the case.

          So that particular decision is fully compliant to the regulations, and not necessarily inconsistent given the different circumstances compared to prior red flagged races. Your suggestion would not be compliant to the regulations.

  8. @black

    But the way it was done, it seemed as the option that would disadvantage Verstappen the least…

    Wait, what? There is zero grounds from the rule book to force everyone on inters. That’s impossible. You would be changing the rules as you go. While the FIA might not have a terribly great record in terms of consistency, let’s not encourage them in doing so.

    Having a rolling start after a suspension IS in the rule book, however. It is for when conditions are deemed so that it would be not safe enough for a standing restart. And of course you can argue about that, it is a subjective rule which allows the stewards to apply what they deem to be the best appraoch.

    However, surely, applying existing rules instead of inventing new ones is not choosing for “the option that would disadvantage Verstappen the least”. If they had done what you suggest, they would actively be choosing for “the option that would disadvantage Verstappen the most”. And that is not a correct direction to take.

    1. @mattds Seconded. If Race Control thinks it is a day when the drivers in front of them can’t drive sheep, they are entitled to govern the race accordingly (within the scope of the regulations, of course).

  9. ‘It’s worth the risk’

    Is it tho? Considering the inconsistencies of stewarding lately it would just be too much of a risk. More likely a penalty would ruin your race, even if you think its opportunistic and might technically be legal (had all 4 wheels been off the track at the exact moment of such overtake). Risk vs reward is so small. Not worth it in my book.

  10. I believe a rolling restart is technically a formation lap and not a racing lap under SC. Leclerc couldn’t have passed Verstappen (who had a wheel on track while spinning) legitimately, I feel.

    1. For me, A formation lap is one when there is a ‘formation’ at the end of it. Hence, any lap preceding a standing race start (whether a start on lap 1 of the race or restart) should be classified as a formation lap and formation lap rules should apply to it. I also understand formation lap is one where there is no SC at the front of the queue.

      All other laps where the pace is controlled (VSC, SC) fall in a separate category which result in no formation at the end of it. They are simple VSC / SC laps and those rules should apply to it. Another way to identify a VSC / SC lap is seeing the SC at the front of the queue or the Yellow VSC board on the TV graphics.

      Why should one even have a 3rd category of non-racing laps where there is a SC in front, but no VSC / SC board on TV graphics and the formation lap rules apply. It is just confusing.

      In my book, the SC rules should have applied to the lap preceding rolling restart as there was an SC in front of the queue and there was no formation at the end of it. If that was done, there would have been no penalty to Kimi and no chance of Leclerc having the inadvertent opportunity to turn the race on its head by overtaking Verstappen.

  11. The fun thing is that Verstappen almost spun in an identical fashion on the first restart after Latifi crashed, at the exact same location.

  12. Obviously not worth the risk. You’d be re-passed again not long after, so what for.

    1. Charles actually did the right thing to avoid an Austria 2019 outcome!

    2. It’s more of a **** move than anything.

      1. Pfff, it’s more of a “you know what” move than anything.

        1. Didn’t say the word even in my first attempt, in fact I always asterisk them.

  13. “After a [race] suspension, it is considered a race lap, but in the same sort of principles as a formation lap,” he said. “So if a car was out of position, it would be like a formation lap that they can regain that position as long as it’s before [the Safety Car One line], is the general principle is the way the regulations are worded.”

    Wait wait wait, so Perez WAS entitled to his positions then?

    That was Perez 10s time penalty right? Overtaking under safety car, but he was just getting his positions back as this quote would say is legal 🤔

    1. Ah never mind, I’m am idiot that can’t process information (or shouldn’t be trying at 4am anyway.)

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