Lando Norris feels fifth was the best he could have done in F1 Azerbaijan GP under the circumstances, as Michael Masi responded to the Brit’s comments.
It was a positive F1 Azerbaijan GP for McLaren’s Norris despite the Saturday trouble. The Brit started from P9, after being penalised for a red flag infringement in qualifying. He was handed a three-place grid penalty, and even got three penalty points on his licence.
In the race on Sunday, Norris dropped P12 at the end of Lap 1 – even behind Daniel Ricciardo – and was P17 after his pit stop at Lap 8. With an early stop, he successfully completed the undercut on Mercedes Valtteri Bottas. By Lap 13, he was back P9.
It was then a chase as incidents for Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen, saw Norris re-start the race in P7. The hectic last two laps saw Norris gain two places – one for Lewis Hamilton – and other on AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, ending fifth.
While he was not overly happy with P5, but seeing the circumstances where he started ninth, a Top 5 was the best he could have achieved, especially as his direct rival Charles Leclerc was just ahead of him, despite starting from pole.
“As disappointing as the first lap was,” said Norris, “I don’t feel like I did a terrible job; it’s just sometimes you can get a bit unlucky, you can’t go right or left, so you go in the middle and get a bit sandwiched. I think most of my starts and first laps have been good this year, just this is the first difficult one, which happens sometimes.
“It’s always difficult to judge how aggressive you want to be, how many risks you want to take, but I thought I took a decent amount of risk versus reward ratio and it paid off, so pleased with a P5,” summed up Norris. Of course, the British driver felt he could do better, showing that his head is set to the McLaren vs Ferrari fight for 3rd place in the standing.
“It’s annoying because you want to think you could be in a position like Pierre or Seb were – but they also had very good pace, they’ve been quick all weekend, Seb had great pace on the soft tyres, so not a lot we could do to defend from them,” said Norris. “I think after qualifying, it’s definitely positive, with Charles starting on pole and only finishing just ahead of us, and nice having Daniel in the points, just helping us out that bit more.
“It’s tough because they still got more points than us, but there’s still a long way to go in the year, so we’ll just keep it up and keep fighting,” summed up Norris, whose post-qualifying comments of a harsh penalty and three points on his super license to take to eight, caught the ears of FIA Race Director, Masi.
The Australian was asked about the penalty that influenced Norris’ race and his comments, where he noted that the stewards actually decided not to apply the guidelines to fullest extent, which suggested a more severe penalty was forthcoming. And that there was no substance in Norris’ explanation of his actions.
“I think to be fair, the first part is when from karting all the way through to Formula 1, when a red flag is displayed, the meaning of that is very clear,” started to Masi, when speaking to written media. “Slow right down, and come to pit lane immediately. So that there, there’s no ambiguity from a six-year-old who is in their first karting event through to Formula 1. It’s consistent across all circuit racing around.
“With regards to the penalty points and the actual penalty itself, obviously the stewards can apply any of the penalties and any penalty points that they see appropriate in an incident. Yes, they do have a guideline to use, but in this circumstance, they saw that it was fit to not apply what the guidelines said because of the mitigating circumstances, which was a harsher penalty.
“However, with regards to the penalty points, they felt that it was appropriate, being a red flag infringement,” summed up Masi. From the video of the incident, it can be seen Norris braking and committing to the pitlane, then changing his mind, contacting the pit wall for instruction. When the pit wall ordered the driver to return, it was too late, and he crossed the line breaking the red flag rule.
Here’s what happened with Daniel Ricciardo on re-start
Here’s what Lando Norris said post qualifying
The story was written by Lorenzo Liegi