Norris believes stewards let Verstappen force Hamilton wide because run-off wasn’t gravel

2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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Formula 1 stewards handle incidents differently based on the run-off areas used at circuits, Lando Norris believes following lengthy debate over last week’s controversy at Interlagos.

The stewards did not investigate an incident on lap 48 of the race when Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen ran wide at Descida do Lago. Hamilton drew past Verstappen on the outside approaching the corner, but the Red Bull driver ran deep into the turn, leading both to run wide onto the asphalt run-off.

The incident drew widespread attention as other drivers have been penalised for forcing rivals wide during the season. It was the focus of attention of a long meeting between drivers and FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi on Friday evening in Qatar.

Drivers said the discussion did not fully clarify what stewards consider legal defensive driving. Norris, who was penalised for forcing Sergio Perez wide into a gravel trap at the Red Bull Ring earlier this year, said the meeting led him to conclude stewards interpret the rules differently depending on the nature of the run-off areas.

However Norris indicated other aspects of the discussion reinforced his belief that the penalty he received in Austria was wrong.

“Some of the things that we now understand means that I shouldn’t have got a penalty,” said Norris. “But then also what types of surfaces are on the outside of the circuit, whether that’s all on Tarmac or whatever, can also have an effect.”

Norris believes the stewards should enforce the racing rules consistently regardless of the type of run-off. “I don’t think it is maybe fair, or true,” he said. “I think if you know that it’s gravel on the outside and if you’re not completely alongside me, which Perez was, then he’s put himself in that very risky position.”

The McLaren driver is convinced the difference between the run-offs was the deciding factor in his penalty. “That’s the only thing that I believe now must have been the difference, that he wasn’t all the way alongside me, it was like half a car,” he said.

“I gave still a bit of space for him to back out, it wasn’t like I shoved him off, there was no contact made. So from that perspective, there’s no reason I should have got the penalty.

“The only reason I now believe is that there was gravel and not Tarmac. And I feel like that’s a bit of a difficult one to give a penalty on, if there’s gravel and not Tarmac. It’s not my fault, it’s the guy on the outside’s risk he’s taking for himself on the outside of the corner that it’s gravel. That’s up to him. It’s not again, obvious exactly why.

“I still feel like it’s an unfair penalty that I got. But that’s what I have to believe now is the difference from Max’s one last week and my one is that I had gravel.”

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2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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30 comments on “Norris believes stewards let Verstappen force Hamilton wide because run-off wasn’t gravel”

  1. RandomMallard (@)
    21st November 2021, 10:21

    This is pretty clearly the case imo. But it’s not unique to Verstappen or to Brazil. Only 4 weeks ago we saw the same issue in COTA, with both the Alfa Romeos (both of them iirc) and Alonso avoiding penalties that, if there was gravel there, I expect would have been penalised, such as in Austria.

    The type of runoff should not matter. End of discussion.

    1. I totally disagree, this promotes gravel to the position of racing director. There is no doubt in my mind it would do a better job than FIA appointed people.

      1. Imagine different rules based on the surface in tennis. Double bounce allowed on the grass, but not allowed on clay and hard courts. F1 has become a stupid joke.

    2. Might have remembered it wrong, but didn’t the car on the inside in those examples keep wheels on the circuit? Max was miles off it.

    3. But I think the issue isn’t just that he forced Hamilton wide, but that he went off track with him by quite a margin, gained an advantage in doing so, and then held on to it. This is sort of how Vettel was penalized a couple of years ago for Montreal. He cut the chicane and gained an advantage. I know they are different circumstances, but the rules are clear. If going off track gives an advantage especially when defending positions, they must swap positions.

  2. Norris is absolutely right.

    1. He absolutely isn’t
      I have seen penalties given for crowding a car that did not involve gravel

  3. If the action is against the rules, the consequences of the action should not have any bearing on the punishment.

  4. Inconsistency of steward’s decisions has been an issue for years, whatever the FIA says. Usually, they seem rather strict and only “let them race” when it is convenient for the current situation. Rationale for decisions made is often muddy and sometimes bordering on ridiculous…we remember when Vettel’s bulging tyres were over the white line, so he could keep his Monza pole position.

  5. Perhaps there are other factors involved. Such as bias or a form of pay back for Lewis’s behaviour at Silverstone. It’s always good to keep an open mind on these subjects and not rule other potential reasons out. But Norris “believes” so there goes any other possible reason. It just must have been the case right? One day people will open their eyes. One day. ‘Till then.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      21st November 2021, 10:43

      As we don’t get to know how the stewards came to their decision all there is are opinions and beliefs.

    2. This doesn’t make sense as Hamilton was penalised at Silverstone with a 10 second penalty… The fact he went on to win the race is inconsiquential to the penalty.

      That’s like a football team complaining they didn’t win when the other team had a man sent off. The penalty and race result have no relation. Either you break the rules or don’t, and the punishment should be applied based on the incident alone.

      I am a Hamilton fan so I have a bias. But regardless of that fact, I am concerned for how this means events will be policed. I fear that now, as long as we have a tarmac run off, we are only racing between the barriers and not the white lines when overtaking….

      1. RandomMallard (@)
        21st November 2021, 10:50

        I agree, as a Verstappen fan (at least at the time of Silverstone, I’m now a bit more of a neutral), completely with this. Hamilton was deemed at fault, which in my opinion was correct (though in hindsight 10 seconds may have been a bit harsh). He served the penalty and still won the race. There is nothing wrong with that imo.

        1. In that case take your opponent out every race, 10 sec penalty is a free win ticket.

  6. I think the stewards took into account the after effect of the incident when Perez went into the gravel and wrecked his race. Which they shouldn’t do. I imagine Horner would have been bombarding the stewards with a request for a penalty.

    1. They have always penalized or refused to penalize based on outcome. Because Hamilton avoided the crash, there was no penalty. In other words, because the guy on the inside failed to cause a crash (though not for a lack of trying), he escaped punishment –what an absurd method of judgment.

    2. Doubt that, it was clear it would’ve been a penalty favouring mercedes, perez’s race was ruined.

  7. It’s all about the show. Seriously, is it that bad? There are two big entertainers and then everybody else. Who cares about Norris and his penalty. I’m personally tired of this eternal kindergarten whining, he pushed me wide! he squezzed me off! wottahell is he duyn! what an idiot! is he blind? stewards, stewards! 5 seconds is a joke! Almost every driver on the grid has dirty tricks in the pocket and yet everybody’s whining. If this season ends up with another Senna-Prost type collision it will be remembered forever. Finally we have real competition after all that “Bono, my tires are gone, violet sector, you can win this race, get in there Lewis, thank you guys, amazing job, the best fans” boredom.

  8. Ham has made a career of running other drivers out wide. He has no right to cry when it’s done to him.

    And to be honest Max took his own line, and left it up to ham to stay along side or back off.

    Just because a driver sticks a car alongside another doesn’t then give them an automatic right to keep that line until they pass.

    1. That was a fun read. Thank you.

      1. Max didn’t stay on the track. Can you list all the examples of Hamilton running cars wide and leaving the track too?

    2. @nandy
      LOL…it’s a strange fellow that thinks drivers have a right to not brake into a corner when being passed, intentionally forcing an opponent wide, and themselves missing the apex of the corner themselves by at least 50 feet.

      The only reason there was no collision is the superior mind/experience of Hamilton knows the kind of animal he is dealing in Max and anticipated the desperate antics. Max would rather crash than concede what is obvious. He blocks, he weaves, he chops, he dices…..He’s done it to opponents, he’s also caused collisions with teammates, including Ricciardo on a straight. Max will get his comeuppance one way or the other. Don’t be surprised to see it.

  9. This explanation is so bizarre that I can believe it.

  10. Bladibla, well at least they didnt give him a void penalty and he subsequently still won the race… And now all of a sudden they feel they’ve been done wrong. Tainted season won on politics only by Mercedes

  11. To be perfectly honest, I believe this decision had more to do with drivers’ names and current championship standing, than the kind of run-off area at that specific corner. In an ideal world, the drivers (and teams) that are part of any incident should have zero influence on the outcome of any decision process. However, F1 isn’t a perfect world and I sort of understand how the stewards mind state was while discussing this incident. The two main title contenders having an incident, the slower of them crowding and pushing the visibly faster driver off track and running off track while doing so, no actual contact made and no damage to both cars. I’m sure if the roles were reversed the same decision would be made. Likewise, I’m sure that had the cars touched, a totally different decision would have been made.

    Just to clarify, I’m not here approving this mentality. As I already said the drivers and standings should not be relevant in any incident and it should be driver X crowding driver Y and according to the rules what should be the outcome. I’m just stating that having watched F1 since 2004 I think that is how the stewarding process work here.

  12. First Russell now Norris. How many drivers want to drive for Mercedes. Beware Lewis, Norris wants your seat.
    They both missed their braking points.

  13. I think if there was gravel Hamilton would have breaked earlier and evaded Verstappen.

    They were not out of control. This was at 2x lower speeds than Silverstone incident. In any case this off track excursion must end.

    1. @jureo Had there been gravel, Verstappen wouldn’t have braked late and gone off – Hamilton would have avoided him, let him drift off into the gravel and taken the lead.

      1. Yes something like that would have happened.

  14. I thought the Norris penalty was OK, he hung Perez out on the gravel when he could and maybe should have given room. At the same time, ever since Verstappen forced Leclerc off track to win the race, it’s been acceptable to do so (albeit apparently with certain team/driver-based provisos…). So I get Norris has grounds for questioning the penalty.

    Interlagos was different, though, and really based around the issue of large expanses of tarmac run-off now available and the question of imposing track limits. If Max had stayed on track and forced Hamilton wide, it would be within the bounds of what now, apparently, is acceptable. But he didn’t. He ran far wide. That’s the point, they’re not similar instances at all.

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