Lando Norris, McLaren, Baku City Circuit, 2021

Norris says red flag penalty is ‘unfair’ and a ‘bad decision’

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Lando Norris criticised the stewards’ decision to penalise him for failing to pit immediately following one of the red flag periods during qualifying today.

The McLaren driver defended his decision not to pit as the red flags were waved as he approached the pit lane entrance at high speed during Q1. Norris insisted he made a safer decision by not pitting immediately.

He was called to the stewards after qualifying and issued a three-place grid drop, and given three penalty points on his super licence, for crossing the start/finish line after the red flag had been waved.

The penalty dropped Norris from sixth place on the grid to ninth. He said he was “a bit gutted” by the verdict. “In my opinion, I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong.

“It’s a tough one because going at the speeds we do, [you] have to make such a quick decision what’s the best thing and safest thing to do. And I felt like what I did was exactly the safest thing to do.

“For all I knew, the pit lane could have been blocked and you’re not allowed to enter the pit lane and then it could have been a different story, like: ‘why did you enter the pit lane, you shouldn’t have done that’. So it’s a tough one.”

Video from Norris’ car showed he slowed immediately after the red flag signals were given and prepared to enter the pit lane, but hesitated and chose to stay out. He asked his team “Should I box or continue?” and was told to enter the pit lane. But by then he had passed the pit lane entry point and replied: “I can’t, I’m too late.”

After the stewards’ verdict, he said “I didn’t have time to talk to my engineer and say ‘should I box, should I not?’. So I did everything I thought I should have done.

“But it sucks because I guess there’s a rule [but] also sometimes there’s some more leniency to certain situations when the driver’s still done the best thing that’s possible to do in that situation. So [I’m] a bit gutted because it’s three places back. It’s going to make a life a lot more difficult tomorrow. I don’t feel like it’s a fair decision, but it is what it is.”

Following his penalty, Norris now has eight penalty points on his super license, leaving him four away from a race ban. He said he felt he should not have incurred penalty points for choosing what he thought was the safest response to the situation.

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“For certain situations, like I said, they should just think what it’s like to be in the driver’s seat for a second and what they have to react to, the speed they’re doing and the time you have to react to things and so on.

“I think, obviously, a reprimand or something is the right thing to do, to have a bit more understanding in some some areas and be able to [override] the actual ruling itself and have a bit of a rethink on what’s actually really fair for the driver or the team or whatever went wrong.

“I didn’t put anyone in harm’s way. If anything, I took the safer option out of boxing and not boxing and that makes it even worse. So I don’t deserve three points on my licence for this, I didn’t do anything dangerous.

“I didn’t do anything because I didn’t know and I was clueless or anything, there was nothing to do with that. I know what the rules are and so on. So it’s not like I have a lack of understanding or anything like that, but for some situations they should actually rethink what’s going on.”

The stewards’ noted Norris was not given the usual five-place grid penalty, acknowledging the lack of time he had to react. “The stewards assume that if a red flag is not respected during qualifying, a drop of five grid positions is appropriate,” they stated. “However, 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.”

Norris said the decision will seriously compromise his race. “It shouldn’t ruin my race having to make this kind of decision. It shouldn’t ruin my Sunday for such a thing. So it’s, in my opinion, a bad decision or just an unfair penalty, an unfair ruling.

“But it’s the way it is. I can’t do anything about it.”

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2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Author information

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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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54 comments on “Norris says red flag penalty is ‘unfair’ and a ‘bad decision’”

  1. Pit lane was open, it was a red flag.. pit the car. No need to ask the team or anything, pit the car. They should have stuck with the 5 place penalty imho.

    1. “I didn’t have time to talk to my engineer and say ‘should I box, should I not?’. So I did everything I thought I should have done.”

      Just to add, what if radio was down? It wouldn’t change a thing, he needs to just pit. Anyway!

    2. @john-h On F1’s highlights the time from the red flag showing to him reaching the pit entry line was 4 seconds, and part of that video was in slow motion. So he has less than 4 seconds, probably closer to 2.5, to firstly get the car slowed down to a delta and also get left into the pitlane. Then you add the unusual nature of the Baku pitlane (that Rosberg keeps going on about) and the fact that you can’t really brake and turn, in this case into the pitlane, at the same time without locking up (just ask Tsunoda, Stroll, Gio, Ricciardo or Sainz). While I’m not advocating that he did nothing wrong, because he did, I do agree with the 3 places instead of the 5 places, because he has an awful lot to do in a short space of time.

      1. I see your point @randommallard but I don’t agree, for the reasons in the article as he had slowed enough to be able to pit, then he checked with his engineer. His first thought should have been to straight out, not have to check first. I know it’s easy for me keyboard warrior here, but it just sets an uneasy precedent this kind of compromise. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter

        1. @john-h I can see both sides of the argument. I haven’t got access to the ‘raw’ onboard + team radio footage until Monday (F1TV Subscription limitations and all that) but what I have learned from that is not to take the radio they play on TV at face value. It is often played out of sync with the footage it came from. As I say, I believe the penalty is the right decision, and also agree with the 3 places as a result of the very short timeframe. But that is my opinion and I can respect other people’s opinions and see where they are coming from as well.

          1. Yeah I know that, I didn’t assume it was played in sync. Again I’m just reading the article here and believing the series of events.

    3. The light showing the pit status open or closed is a bit bavk on where he was when the flags amd lights were shown. It is entirely possible the pits is blocked, and closed, while norris had already past the lights indicating so, being where he was when track status went red.

  2. Can’t feel sorry about this one.

  3. Ridiculous decision by the FIA. Yet, they let cars race with wings that do not confirm to the regulations.

    1. The problem is, without catching them with the static load tests, they can’t ‘prove’ that the wings are illegal. And they can’t do this by drawing lines on the camera because the car moves, usually naturally downwards, as it accelerates, as does the camera, while the line stays at a static point. This is the reason they’ve introduced the dot patterns on the wings for this weekend.

    2. I haven’t seen video footage of all the rear wings but if they had to boot Red Bull out because of the wing, Mercedes would be gone too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZx3ZhB_rKk

      1. The wing the three teams highlighted was the one used in Spain. Which bears no resemblance to what the bendy wing teams have used since in relation to flexing. And I doubt we will ever see that RB wing again. But I expect RB and their supporters to tell me that’s merely a coincidence.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBWUefSl5tI&t=14s

        1. The trick is also that Red Bull made their wing bend progressively further with load. This so they can pass the load tests and still bend the wing back under full load.

          In Baku the wing produces much less downforce, so it would bend progressively less even that you’d expect. So it could even be that they changed nothing and that this level of bending is legal for both Mercedes and Red Bull.

      2. Wrong, make sure you show the right part of the footage: https://youtu.be/JZx3ZhB_rKk?t=56

        The RB flexes much more, still.

    3. @spafrancorchamps
      If this isn’t whataboutism, I really don’t know what is. This has nothing to do with flexiwings. Absolutely nothing.

      1. Neutralino I agree. This is very much a sporting matter, while the flexi-wings debate @spafrancorchamps brings up is a technical matter. I believe the stewards themselves are rarely involved in actually investigating a technical matter, and that almost all of this work is done mainly by the scrutineers. Even the Racing Point controversy last year was officially a sporting infringement as it covers the intellectual property details covered in the sporting regs.

    4. At the moment, they ARE conform. Fia will chamge the ruleswt/tests but hasnt done so yet. So technically the wings are legal until tests change and show otherwise

  4. I can understand his point of view. But FIA is very strict with yellow and red flags for a reason. Still remember Bianchi accident.

    1. Not so very strict..
      Instead of 5 places as required by the rulebook he only got 3.

      1. There is no ‘required by the rulebook’ penalty in this instance as far as I can tell. The stewards appear to be free to choose the penalty here, and it seems that they would normally choose to give 5 places, but the circumstances surrounding it mean it is only 3 instead. This is in contrast to an offence such as entering a closed pitlane, where the sporting regs specify that the penalty to be handed out is under Article 38.3(d), which is the article describing a 10 second stop and go.

    2. @ruben I have to agree, Lando knows that a Red Flag means things are too dangerous and make your way to the pit lane as slowly as possible (could be the grid in a race, but never in qualifying). When he asked his engineer it wasn’t for safety reasons (the brake pedal responds quicker than an engineer).

      It’s a rubbish way to get a penalty, but we can’t start playing around with red flag regs, it’s for no reason other than safety.

      1. That’s what the flag means, but that’s not necessarily how it’s used. In qualifying a red flag is mostly just a way of making sure the timer is stopped, and ensuring that it’s ‘fair’ because everyone loses the lap not just the people behind the incident. The obvious problem with this misuse of the red flag being that Norris didn’t think the red flag was all that bad and figured he could just do another lap, slow down near the incident, and carry on; which was true but obviously not what the regulations demand of him.

        Norris’ penalty is fine, but F1 can definitely improve when it comes to handling qualifying incidents.

      2. @bernasaurus hard disagree, here. The Bianchi incident was under double yellows, rather than red flags. There was heavy machinery at the off of a hard left hand corner after a fast straight where if a driver missed the corner they’d be straight on into the grass. The grass was very wet thus no grip for slowing. The cloud cover was too low so the helicopters could not safely transport him to a more fitting emergency room.

        Tell me how literally any of those factors have any kind of relevance to what happened in today’s qualy?

        1. Aiming to avoid a repeat, perhaps…

    3. @ruben the Bianchi incident was a million reasons other than what happened today. No correlation between the two whatsoever.

      1. @neiana I think the main correlation is that there wasn’t a neutralisation (SC or Red Flag) in Bianchi’s case when there really should have been, and today we had a case of someone not following the neutralisation procedures when there were in place.

        1. Exactly right!

        2. @randommallard they had double waved yellows, which is supposed to be the safety neutralization. I think today’s message with Masi shows that he expects drivers to SLOW THE F DOWN under double waved yellows. That was the issue with Bianchi as he was at the place on the track where the yellows were being waved and he did not neutralize.

          1. I seem to remember reading something about Bianchi trying to slow down but having a brake-by-wire fail safe error as he went off I believe. Although in those conditions (which they shouldn’t have been racing in) you could have gone off at any speed.

  5. RocketTankski
    5th June 2021, 19:03

    If he really felt he couldn’t immediately make it into the pit lane, then he should have stopped just past it (but well off the racing line) and immediately asked for advice / assistance from race control?

    1. I would argue that doing that is even worse. You really don’t want a car stopped on a racetrack wherever possible, no matter whether other cars should be going fast past there or not. Formula E can tell you this.

  6. It was fair enough.

  7. I understand why he’s unhappy, but not really unfair. The penalty is even slightly leaner than the standard, but still in line with regulations.

  8. I didn’t put anyone in harm’s way. If anything, I took the safer option out of boxing and not boxing and that makes it even worse.

    100% agree with this. He had only a few seconds to decide what he was doing. And he made the correct decision, the one that any responsible driver makes, which is to drive where you can see and not go somewhere blind.

    And yet again we see the penalty point system magnify what should be a minor reprimand. Nonsense.

    1. Agree, absolutely unfair, and in general I’m one who hates rules anyway, so I really like norris here, rebellion!

    2. And obviously, agree with the part where a race gets “ruined” for a wrong decision in 2,5 sec, it’s asking way too much.

  9. Davidson made a good point on TV: Lando was going really really fast approaching the pit entry and it could have been a very dangerous breaking maneuver. But when he was already beyond the pit entry, he clearly accelerated again.
    A red flag means that the car MUST go back to pit, so Lando had no reason to ask his team if he should pit or not. He HAD to pit. But that pit entry in Baku is problematic, as the cars approach the entry at almost 300km/h.
    To me, the marshalls had no way to avoid applying the rulebook, but they could have chosen a reprimand instead of punishing.

  10. Two times in a row now. I feel some regulation coming up. Still, to the teams missing out: your bad. Its not like nothing happened before in other FPs or Q’s. You have missed your shot

  11. isthatglock21
    5th June 2021, 22:15

    Slam dunk & perfectly fair penalty imo. The board footage & radio doesn’t help him much, he knew there was a red flag & suddenly decided to move out the pit lane & continue whilst speeding right back up. Truly odd moment. You don’t play around under red flags. Simple as that really.

  12. Suck it up, Lando. It’s fair. It’s a breach of flag protocol. Something the FIA (rightly) will not be lenient on, and can not be lenient on. They have to be respected to the full letter of the rule for everyones safety.

    It doesn’t matter if a driver hasn’t actively put anyone in danger, every incident under a flag has to be treated as a ‘what if’ and an unknown, because the next time something like that happens, ‘what if’ a driver does the same and hits a marshall, or a medical car, they have to make examples of not obeying flags to make sure others do in future.

    Plenty drivers over the years have been given grid drops and penalty points for way less. Raikkonen getting 3 points once in Spa for just going a fraction too quick on the straight when he could see the entire incident off to the side of it he wasn’t on, for one.

    The problem is not him not entering the pits and completing another in lap, I think a mix of the speed he was at when the flag came out, the way the Baku entry is and then uncertainty over crossing the solid line etc, the decision to stay out is probably excusable and wouldn’t have been punished in that circumstance. It’s probably the right call to stay out.

    The issue was going past the pit entry and then speeding back up. If he’d just kept coasting down the straight, then he’d have been fine.

  13. Should have defaulted to entering the pits until told not to. Crazy to default to continuing on track until told to come into the pits in a red flag.

    That being said maybe a financial penalty would have done just a good a job at learning that lesson. 🤷‍♂️

    1. @skipgamer you’re right, default to slamming on the brakes heading into a very tiny area under a red flag condition. I think you should watch this year’s Indy 500, then watch the crash that took out the Ferrari in today’s qualy and try again.

      1. He was already slowing down heading into the pits then changed his mind. I think you need to watch what you’re professing about and try again.

        1. @skipgamer like I said, check out the Indy 500 and watch how the Ferrari crashed out. Just use your brain for a moment? What if the incident was in the pit lane? What if he spun like the Ferrari (and several cars at Indy?) and killed someone?

          Go off.

          1. @neiana If an incident had occurred in the pit lane blocking the entry, the LED boards prior to pit lane (the ones which Norris saw) would have notified the drivers that pit lane was closed. The sign wouldn’t have been just red, but red with a white X on it.
            Happened in Monza last year during the race, remember?

            And it has nothing to do with Indy, as they use different rules and systems.

          2. Go off? Use your brain? Relax man…

          3. Two former drivers commenting in my country: “No excuse, he had plenty of time.”

        2. @skipgamer I’m pretty sure he was going to set a lap time. I highly doubt he was going to go into the pits with all the uncertainty about setting a time. Going to the left of the dotted line marking pit entry is quite normal and is legal (Leclerc did it on his pole lap, the only one I have an onboard of at the moment). The radio they play on TV never 100% correlates to the time it was actually spoken on the onboards, so it may be that while it appeared he was already slowing for the pits, it was probably out of sync with what actually happened.

          At the end of the day, I do believe the penalty is justified and necessary. I also agree with the decision to make it 3 places and not 5 because he would have had about 2.5-3 seconds to manage everything.

      2. @neiana They will brake later & harder coming into the pits during the race than what Lando would have had to do to make it into the pits for that red flag.

        And he had also slowed down when he initially saw the red flag so it would have been a slower, safer pit entry than it will be today for the race.

  14. No excuse for Lando. Instead of moaning he should be grateful that they reduced his penalty.

  15. Not knowing all the rules by heart is a serious oversight by someone on that level. This was poor by Norris.

    1. They don’t necessarily need to know all of the rules in that situation, but some are certainly more important than others.
      This one shouldn’t have required a second thought.

  16. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    6th June 2021, 10:33

    Red Flag means slow down and enter the pitlane. If the accident would’ve happened in the pitlane, it wouldn’t have been a red flag but (double) yellow and pitlane closed.

    C’mon Lando, you’ve played enough F1 on Twitch to know this.

    Oh yeah, and you’re on the actual F1 grid too.

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