Lando Norris, McLaren, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021

Norris slates F1’s “worst rule ever invented” after red flag misfortune

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Lando Norris criticised a quirk of Formula 1’s rules which allows drivers to fulfil their obligation to make a mandatory pit stop during a red flag period after he finished 10th in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver seized the opportunity to change tyres when the Safety Car was summoned on lap 11 following a crash for Mick Schumacher. The trip to the pits dropped Norris from being comfortably in the points to 16th and last, but he remained behind all of the drivers yet to pit.

He was therefore dismayed when the race was subsequently red-flagged, which meant those yet to stop could change their tyres during the stoppage without losing time.

“It’s possibly the worst rule ever invented by someone,” Norris told Sky after the race, “being able to change tyres under red flag.”

“It ruined our race today,” said Norris. “It feels like you do so much just to get it all taken away. It sucks because the team did a good job. I thought the car was pretty decent. But it’s just crap, the rule ruins everything.”

The McLaren driver was able to recover a point from his race by keeping out of trouble on the first and second restarts. But it means there has been no result higher than eight for Norris in the final flyaway leg of the season across the Americas and the Middle East.

His team mate Daniel Ricciardo has contributed more than twice as many points to McLaren’s tally during this time after he finished fifth in Jeddah, but Ferrari are comfortably ahead of McLaren in the battle for third in the constructors’ standings.

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“It’s still a fun circuit to drive,” added Norris. “But when you feel like you put that much to get one point, I think it’s like my fourth consecutive one-or-two-pointer finish, it’s just hard to take.”

Ricciardo was among those to benefit from the stoppage. “I got unlucky with it, Daniel got lucky with it and finished P5 so I guess there’s a ‘pro’ to it as well,” said Norris. “If both of us boxed, then it would probably be one of the worst days you can imagine.

“I’m happy for my side. I feel like I did a good job when I could and being patient and so on. A lot of people just crashed in front of me for some reason.”

Norris believes Mercedes has cause to feel aggrieved about the situation as well, as Max Verstappen was also able to change his tyres during the first stoppage and jumped ahead of both their cars when he did.

“If Max won because he just got a free pit stop, then I feel like Mercedes would complain,” Norris said. “I don’t know if they would still now or not, because [Lewis Hamilton] won. So it’s just a great day for them. But I just feel like it’s such an unfair thing. They should still have to do their pit stop, they should be more just unlucky rather than getting lucky. Just sucks.”

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2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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64 comments on “Norris slates F1’s “worst rule ever invented” after red flag misfortune”

  1. He also criticized the rule in Monza last year. He should realize why allowing tyre changes is better than not.
    I’ve mentioned this before, but safety, of course, as a driver might have a very worn set, in which case, continuing would be both an unnecessary safety risk & unfair towards that driver. I doubt he’d like to be in this situation himself.
    Rules can’t get changed based on who benefits & who doesn’t.

    1. But there is a lot more wrong about the Red Flag.
      Fans here seem to love it (Monza last year), yet it’s nothing better than reducing a race to a Sprint event with a mixed-up grid.

      1. @jeanrien
        How about closing pit entry until they’ve decided whether a red flag is necessary?

        That way the decision applies before anyone pits, removing the possibility the stewards decision will be influenced by who pitted and who stayed out

        1. I am with you on this. They should open put entry either as yellow or red. But not change.

        2. or alternatively, if an SC is issued and followed later in the same SC period with a red flag; the ordering should be the same as if RED was issued along with the SC.

        3. @slotopen – They used to close the pits (2008?), but to what end? They also gave huge fuel tanks to eliminate refueling (big reason to pit at the time), but mandate one pit stop. And they toyed with zero pit stops.

          I get it, they want all action to happen on track, right? Well, you’d better hope you have a real competitive season, otherwise, get ready for processions. Give me strategy options. If a car can pit 2-3 times and win, great. If it can win without a pit stop, great. Strategy prescriptions are the wrong path, imo.

    2. Why not giving the possibility for teams to change tyre but take a 20sec hit (or pitstop time to be defined for each circuit) from the moment race is stopped. All cars can be rearranged after restart anyway and we have enough complication already to introduce one which is “fair”. Then Teams can take the decision, know the price and don’t gain an unfair advantage, and the technology is there to implement it.

      1. To add upp, another solution would be to roll back position to prior the safety car, or VSC, or first disruption of the race so that it equalized between teams that pitted or not. I like it less than above since a pit blunder will be without consequence, but on the other hand the ones changing under red flag can hardly mess the change.

    3. Ok they ought to be allowed tyre changes for safety reasons, but why are they allowed to change compound?

      Under a red flag teams can, for instance, replace broken components on the car, provided it’s of the same specification. Just apply the same rule for tyres. And if teams either have to or choose to change compound then have an appropriate penalty, e.g. a drive-through.

      1. This comment makes sense to me. Like for like is the intention of the rule but doesn’t seem to apply for tyres. Good point.

        1. if you’re gonna change tyres, you have to be able to switch compounds. what if you run out of fresh rubber? what if it’s all punctured or worn to the point of not being usable?

    4. The solution would have to be something like “changing your tyres under red flag doesn’t satisfy the rule about having to run at least 2 compounds” or something like that @jerejj.
      Being able to change the tyres is very important as you mention. Be it for other types due to weather (i.e. mandating full wets) or to mitigate the risk of all those tyres developing defects due to running through debris etc.
      Not sure the solution you bring up @jeanrien is always very satisfactory, because here they were already running behind a SC, so then adding 20 seconds would put them automatically at the end of the field. That second solution might work, but I agree that it also feels like it would then bring confusion.

      But maybe they should look whether it could be changed to satisfy that strategic element of the “2 compounds” thing somehow. But then, don’t we get back to the issues with the advantage gained by being able to pit under VSC or SC as well? Is that fairer than being able to use the red flag stoppage?

      1. @bascb I like the idea that it doesn’t count for a mandatory set. Ultimately it just feels wrong that some drivers can gain a free 30s for no reason in a race for other than they were due to pit later. It also usually benefits those outside the top 10 in qualifying who are running harder compounds and longer first stints and hence already had a tyre advantage in the first place.

        For me the answer is you have to put on the same compound tyres you were already racing so you can’t skip the mandatory stop requirement. If you do not have another set of those tyres you can choose to forgo changing your tyres or change to a different compound but will have to serve a drive through penalty once the race has restarted (within 3 laps).

        1. that’s a really good idea. I think the rule for everything else is you have to exchange damaged parts with an identical part (or is parc ferme over when the green flag drops?). Either way, let them change tires for safety but require them to keep the same compound.

          Either that or just mandate 1 green/yellow flag pit stop since that isn’t in the rules now, just usually the only way to satisfy the rule about using 2 tires.

      2. It’s even easier than that, just alter the rule to say that the teams can change their tyres during a red flag stoppage but must swap them for the same compound (unless switching from slicks to wets/inters). That way the ‘safety’ aspect is taken out of the equation as is the running both compounds issue.

        1. In theory that would be ok @asanator. But then we get into issues when they do not HAVE such a set left, something we’ve seen quite often over the years.

      3. Like the idea that change of tyres during Red Flag does not towards the 2 compound rule but you replace the tyre with the same compound type.

    5. You’re missing the point. Let the drivers change tyres during the red flag that covers your point re safety but rewrite the mandatary rule so only a stop made during the race ie green flag or safety car conditions counts and then it’s fair for everyone.

      1. Definitely.

      2. also not fair. what if someone had pitted before the red flag?

    6. @jerejj Rules shouldn’t be made based on who benefits, but they should be made on the principle of least interference with the race. F1 has a tendency to defend bad rules when they are applied so frequently that their injustices cancel out over time. But this is still a bad rule, and an outlier in global motorsport.

      If F1 got rid of this rule, teams still would have the option to change tyres for safety (or any other reason) before the restart: They could do so on the formation lap, and start from pit lane, as we saw in Hungary. That would be simple and fair, as the effective starting order would reflect what would have happened if they had stopped under safety car conditions.

    7. yahbasic (@thedogjustpukedonme)
      6th December 2021, 22:16

      If a driver has very worn tyres then they should have pitted, no?

    8. I am not too worried about some element of luck playing here; but the fact that yellow with SC can be followed by Red is simply a policy that one can play around with to favor one driver over another.

  2. allows drivers to fulfil their obligation to make a mandatory pit stop during a red flag period

    Well… that’s the thing. The rules don’t call for a mandatory pit stop, they state that drivers must use two different tyre compounds during the race. Of course, under normal circumstances, the only way to get this is a pit stop, but that’s not what the rules say.

    1. So it could be solved very simply by changing the rule to a mandatory pit stop.

      1. No, not really. You only would shift the problem. As it is now, the rule does strongly favour the guys who didn’t stop. Change it the way you propose it, it would favour strongly the guys that did stop.
        It’s impossible to make it just for everyone. In the end it just comes down to luck….

  3. Norris is too young to remember single-lap qualifying, I suppose.

    1. And I think, like most people, he is deliberately trying to blank the double-points finale in Abu Dhabi 2014 from his memory.

  4. For years I’ve said, let them change tyres under red for safety reasons, but don’t let it count towards the normal requirement for a pit stop (as @warheart says, its not a mandatory stop, but a requirement to use two compounds that could normally only be achieved by a stop).

  5. Just get rid of the ridiculous mandatory tyre compound change and let them choose.

  6. I wonder if the rule could be tweaked perhaps something like,

    If a red flag is called after an initial safety car period, drivers who choose not to pit during that safety car period may not change tyres in the red light except for safety related reasons.

    That or tyre changes under a red flag ar not counted as the mandatory pit stop.

    That gives teams the choice to pit under safety car conditions or not. The pit lane used to close during safety cars, but that caused problems for people with punctures having to keep driving or risk a penalty.

    1. I mean the outcome of the rule is largely averaged out over time, but if they are allowed because of safety and no other reason why not impose that the change of tyres can only be for a set of the same compound. Therefore that alone would not fulfill the requirement of two compounds as mandated by the rules. The difficult bit of such a rule is what if track conditions change during red flag, i.e wet to dry etc.

      1. I think this is the perfect solution.

  7. Changing tyres is not really the issue here. After a red flag they should continue in the same order which was after the last lap under green flag conditions. Everyone can change tyres and no one loses 10 places.

    There would maybe need to be some exceptions though if you caused the SC/RF and would need to pit for repairs anyway

  8. fyi they didnt fix anything on the barrairs it was masi sending gift for max who he is rooting for, which he clearly said during an interview.

  9. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    6th December 2021, 9:08

    Apart from Lando losing out but when Charles hit the same barrier the session was red flagged. That would of been the better decision in the race.

  10. We’ve had so many red flags recently it’s really brought the unfairness of this rule into focus.

    I think the only time you should be allowed to change tyres under a red flag is if you want to go to a ‘more wet’ compound – i.e from slicks to inters/wets or from inters to wets. It’d be daft to send everyone back out on inappropriate tyres in the wet so you have to allow it then, but that change would prevent these cases of people getting a free pitstop in dry conditions.

    It’d still be possible that someone gets unlucky if they’ve changed to inters/wets early and then a red flag comes that allows everyone else to make the change for free, but that’s harder to legislate for without making the rules overly complicated.

    Similarly if the track dried a lot during the red flag then someone who changed to slicks early would get lucky as everyone else pitted at the restart (like Hungary earlier this year). So you could allow changes to ‘less wet’ tyres as well, but then the early stopper would be the unlucky one instead.

  11. Quite simple tweak of the rules would go some part to evening it back up in these situations.
    If a red flag directly proceeds a yellow flag then for the restart following red flag all positions at the point of the initial yellow flag will be used.
    I mention some part, if a car changes their tyres through the yellow flag period then yes they’ll be at a slight disadvantage to somebody changing them whilst race is red flagged but in general they’d be behind a safety car and thus not wearing the tyres down as when in normal race conditions so when the race restarts tyre wise all would be pretty even.

  12. Norris was happy to potentially gain from pitting under the SC vs his rivals, but complains when the luck does not go his way. However, I agree that the rule could change. Perhaps drop to the back of the restart if youn change tyres during red flag stoppage?

  13. They took the gamble and it didn’t pay of. Someone rolled the dice and in some other case there would have been another safety car and they who stopped first the outcome would have been the same. You cannot lose and win all together. Sometimes you think you make the right decision but it ends up being the worst.

  14. Maybe the rule should change slightly, like drivers can change tyre during a red flag but it doesn’t count as a mandatory tyre change or change wording to mandatory pit stop. Although luck will always be a part of F1

  15. It’s worth noting that Norris has been on the receiving end of the red flag tyre change rule more than once. He was incensed last year in Monza when Stroll managed to get ahead of him and on to the podium thanks to the red flag.

    I’d like to know Lando’s thoughts if he ever gets to benefit from this rule 😋

  16. The problem isn’t the red flag or the red flag rule. The problem was when Leclerc hit the same wall the red flag was instant. Race “control” had this experience when the chose to not issue a red flag until certain drivers had pitted.

    1. @jimfromus A big crash in practice is always an instant red flag because it’s the only option they have given they don’t have the option to send out a Safety Car in a practice session & only use a VSC if it’s going to be a very short clear up time.

      In a race the only time you ever get an instant red flag is if there’s debris or crashed cars all over the track, A track blockage or immediate obvious damage to a barrier which will take a long time to fix.

      In this case I don’t think it was an obvious red flag because on initial inspection I don’t think the barrier looked too bad & I think it was only once they removed Mick’s car that they saw that part of the tecpro barrier was going to need replacing.

      What was done yesterday with the SC used to slow the field with the red been brought out later is pretty normal in that sort of situation.

      1. In that case, we should return the order as if the RED flag was issued along with the SC. The fact is that you took that decision in two steps and not as one step should not be a factor in this.

    2. I initially wanted no pit stops under red flags and safety car or virtual safety car incidents. Ive now changed my mind. Once the race is suspended (safety car and virtual car) no 1 should be allowed in to the pits. Until the race resumes. Under red flag only repairs to cars be allowed. No changing of tyres unless deemed too dangerous to continue using tyres (safety reasons). If tyres are flat spotted the driver will need to start the race again on the same tyres and pit once race has resumed. Like any other normal pit stop.

  17. thats quite right, they should have red flagged straight away like when Leclerc hit the wall. but the point Lando was making is that teams were allowed to change tyres under Red Flag without losing position, which isnt usually the case if you change under safety car. But the reason they change under safety car is to gain an advantage. So if you stop that and only allow tyre change under a mandatory stop the problem would disappear. the safety car deployment should not last more than two laps, if the track management cannot clear the obstruction or repair the damage then Red Flag. No changing of tyre unless stewards allow under safety.

  18. I would suggest the rule is a tyre change is permitted under red flag conditions only if the driver swaps from a dry compound to a wet compound, or vice versa.

    1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      6th December 2021, 15:40

      I agree on that front. I also don’t think car repairs should take place on red flags either. Yellow and green flag situations should be the only times in which crews can touch the cars. The way most series do it… the crew visually looks over the cars and gather supplies to perform repairs when the red flag is lifted. Too many times we see cars unfairly benefit from car repairs under red flag conditions. Lewis twice this season at Silverstone and at Imola.

  19. The reason for the red flag, tyre change, rule is safety.
    In the event of an accident, drivers may have driven over debris, that could damage (puncture) the tyres. If there was a penalty to changing tyres under a red flag, then teams could be potentially sending an unsafe car back onto the track.

    1. As with any other part, teams can could change tyre on safety grounds s if there are signs of damage e.g. obvious cuts or falling pressure.

      If no damage, no tyre changes.

      1. @dang Problem is that cuts aren’t always obvious & don’t always result in any loss of pressure until it fails.

        Additionally if you have somebody on a very worn set of tyres that are at the end of a long stint making them do a standing restart is going to be a big safety concern given how bad a start they are likely to get & how slow they are going to be through the opening corners. And a safety concern not just for them but for those on fresher tyres around them who are going to be significantly faster off the line & through the opening lap.

        I’d also argue that not allowing drivers to change tyres in that situation is more unfair than what we have now as they are going to lose significantly more time/places than those who pit before a red flag do currently.

        Changing the rule is something that always comes up in this situation & every time the FIA & F1 as a whole look at it & conclude that changing it causes more issues than it solves & that leaving the rules as is is the best & safest thing to do. If fans have more knowledge & data that would change F1’s view on this then maybe send it to them.

    2. There’s is plenty of time to check tyres by stewards. If they need to change them because of damage caused by a crash fine. I have never this in 40 years of racing

  20. Lando’s right of course. Let’s not over-think this.

  21. Why not just drop the two-compound rule entirely?

    1. Because modern fans are for some reason scared of races with no pit stops even though that is how F1 was for years before 1994 & the racing was arguably better & less predictable for it.

      When no stops was an option you never knew what strategy everyone was on, You never knew who was pitting & who wasn’t & the ability to go for a no stop while others went for 1 or more created a lot of variables which led to less predictable results with mid field teams gambling on not stopping to jump faster cars who did.

      Go watch the 1990 French GP for example. Both Leyton House cars no stopped while all the leaders stopped & they nearly got a totally unexpected 1-2 out of it having failed to qualify in the previous race.

      Ditch the silly rule forcing them to run 2 compounds, Ditch the rule forcing them to all have the same compounds & allow them to mix sets like they used to & just let teams run whatever tyres & strategy they feel is best for them. Thats how it was for decades & how it should be again.

  22. The rule needs to be changed. Plenty of suggestions above for the FIA to consider.

    Reckon you can pass them on Racefans journos?

  23. So you have a gap of 30 seconds to the one behind, that means a free pitstop, but your tyres are still good. Red flag or SC comes and you cannot change tyres or the change doesn’t count as mandatory stop.

    No matter how you write the rules, there is always someone going to suffer from the red flag or SC.. Accept it, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The perfect rule does not exist.

    Oh wait they invented FSC….. never mind…. Not perfect either……

    Safety first. Stop whining when it is in your disadvantage. Just stop.

    Driving to slow so the team can do a double stop under SC. Penalty, that is just unsportsmanlike.

    SC on track, than a mandatory speed like the pitlimiter (not a delta). Should be fairly easy to detect when drivers are driving unnecessarily slowly or not driving in a straight line. This should not be an issue since everybody gets in a line behind the SC. SC 120km/h, limiter at 150km/h, crash site 80km/h. Wait for whole the field joins the SC before releasing.

    But not perfect either

    1. We don’t need perfect rules. We want sports, no games! A yellow followed by red should the same as if it was red to begin with and the order is restored.

  24. Listening to him speak freely about this on the F1 live post-race show was quite refreshing.

  25. So Norris is OK with changing tires behind a SC to get an advantage over the other cars, but not OK with changing tires in a red flag situation.

    SC and red flags neutralize the race for safety reasons and there is no way for them to be fair from a racing point of view.

  26. I don’t think not changing tyres itself is a problem for Norris – but the rule which allows them to keep position.

    So the solution would be that starting grid for the restart would have priority order.
    1. Those who didn’t make any changes to the car
    2. Those who changed tyres on the car
    3. Those who made any other change to the car than tyres (eg. fix damage)
    4. Those who changed tyres and made any other change

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