Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc believe the FIA should impose harsher penalties on drivers who are deemed to have impeded rivals in qualifying.Max Verstappen was investigated for a trio of impeding incidents after qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix. None resulted in a grid penalty but two led to reprimands, one of which was for impeding Yuki Tsunoda early in Q2.
Verstappen had just completed his first timed run of the session and passed Tsunoda, corner who was on his out-lap, before the final corner. After backing off on his way back to the pits Verstappen delayed Tsunoda on his flying lap, leading the AlphaTauri driver to abandon his effort.
After a stewards’ investigation – which Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri team did not attend – Verstappen received a driving reprimand and Red Bull were fined €5,000 (£4,317) for failing to warn their driver about Tsunoda behind.
Verstappen was also reprimanded for a separate impeding incident after he remained stationary for 14 seconds at the pit lane exit at the end of Q1. He was also investigated for impeding Logan Sargeant at the end of the lap in Q1, but the stewards ruled Verstappen committed no infringement in that case.
Several other drivers have collected grid penalties for impeding over the course of the season. Speaking ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, Norris said Verstappen’s blocking of Tsunoda should have come with a stronger penalty.
“I don’t want to say too much, ’cause I’ll just create controversy, but I think the blocking one on track was the one that should’ve been a penalty,” said Norris.
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“He blocked someone. It’s not just down to the team. I know the team got the fine at the end of the day, but it should be down to the driver as well to look in his mirrors. You’ve got nothing else to do the whole lap, but look in your mirrors. And it seems like a lot of people struggle to do that.”
Leclerc said that he had been “a bit surprised” that Verstappen had only been reprimanded for stopping at the end of the pitlane.
“That could open quite bad situations in the future,” Leclerc said. “But it’s always an open discussion with the FIA and trying to explain to them what our point of view is and improve. I’m sure we’ll have that discussion tomorrow evening at the briefing.”
Norris called for tougher punishments when drivers are deemed to impede rivals during qualifying sessions.
“I think it should just be harsher penalties for blocking people because so many people do it,” he said. “It ruins your lap, ruins your qualifying. It put Yuki out in qualifying and he was P1 in Q1.
“No one seems to care enough and it’s happened a lot this season, happened to me quite a few times, especially with certain teams, but it’s also down to the driver to look in the mirror. They’ve got nothing else to do but hit the recharge button and look in the mirror and people seem to struggle to be able to do that in Formula 1, which is a surprise.”
“I’ll probably block someone now this weekend and make myself look stupid,” Norris added. Last year Verstappen was given a reprimand for impeding Norris during qualifying at Suzuka.
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Tsunoda was reluctant to discuss the incident involving a driver from AlphaTauri’s senior team, but said he sought guidance from the FIA after receiving two separate grid penalties in 2023 for impeding rivals in Montreal and Zandvoort.
“I don’t want to really talk about Singapore, but in general, to be honest it feels like I’m the one getting quite consistent penalties,” Tsunoda said. “But it is what it is.
“I spoke with the FIA actually in Monza, so I could understand what they were thinking in general.”
Tsunoda has been investigated over 14 incidents in the opening 15 rounds of the championship – more than any other driver on the grid.
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2023 Japanese Grand Prix
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