McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc explain their decision not to overtake a spinning Red Bull of Max Verstappen at the restart.
The opportunity arose for Leclerc and Norris, then running second and third, to overtake Verstappen when the Dutchman half-spun prior to the F1 Imola GP re-start. But neither of the two chose to pass the race leader, who slid sideways across the grass as he attempted to regain control of his RB16B.
Though rules dictate that there mustn’t be any overtaking prior to the start/finish line on such a restart, drivers are still allowed to overtake an opponent if they have a clear issue with their car, or if staying behind them presents a danger to competitors. Given the circumstances, both drivers passing Verstappen would likely have been within the rules.
Considering this, some fans questioned why there lacked even an attempt from either driver to pass Verstappen’s sliding Red Bull. But Leclerc explains that he deemed it unwise to pass the Dutchman given that he had one wheel on the circuit, and quickly recovered his car. Also, the Monegasque did not have radio in the second half and didn’t realise it was a rolling start.
“I considered [passing Verstappen] at one point, but at the same time I backed off,” said Leclerc to media. “I think looking back at it, it was the right choice because I think he always had one wheel on the track. And so I back off and because he didn’t completely spin, obviously, as we’ve seen. So I thought about it but it was too late and he was already back in front.
Norris called the incident “funny,” and shared his view that Leclerc could have passed Verstappen, given the placement of the latter’s car and the fact that the former was forced to take evasive action. The Brit also shared that he would have gone for the overtake had he been presented the same opportunity as Leclerc.
“I had a great view of it,” said Norris. “Quite funny actually. I think Leclerc 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.
“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, so it was like Leclerc… 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,” summed up Norris.
Meanwhile, explaining the spin, Verstappen added: “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 – 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. I don’t know. 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.”
Here’s Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on Lap 1 contact