Azerbaijan Grand Prix – McLaren’s Lando Norris has been given a three-place grid penalty and three penalty points for braking the rules under red flags in qualifying on Saturday.
The Briton was at the entry to the pitlane as the red flags were brought out to deal with Antonio Giovinazzi’s crashed Alfa Romeo in Q1. Norris entered the pitlane then went back onto the circuit and completed another lap of the Baku street circuit.
“Norris was just on the long start-finish-straight when red flags were displayed,” said the stewards ruling.
“Consequently, red lights were flashing on a panel on the left guardrail and on the car’s dashboard. During the hearing, the driver admitted that he lifted the throttle, braked and was committed to and able to enter the pitlane.
“At that moment he was not sure what to do and asked his team over the radio. Although the team ordered him immediately to enter the pits, it was too late and Norris crossed the finish line one more time.
“The Stewards assume that if a red flag is not respected during qualifying, a drop of 5 grid positions is appropriate. However, if you consider that the driver only had a very short time to react due to his position on the track, a drop of 3 grid positions is sufficient as an exception.”
Norris had qualified up in sixth but will now start in ninth ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix. The 21-year-old also has now accrued a total of eight points on his super licence after the three for the infringement.
The stewards did acknowledge that Norris was very close to the pits and travelling at high speed when the red flags came out and the McLaren driver feels the stewards ruling was tough considering how little time he had to react.
“In my opinion, I don’t feel like I did anything wrong,” said Norris after qualifying. “It’s a tough one because going at the speeds we do, we have to make such a quick decision, what’s the best thing and safest thing to do? And I feel like what I did was exactly the safest thing to do.
“For all I know, the pitlane could have been blocked, and you’re not allowed to enter the pitlane. And then it could have been a different story. ‘Why did you enter the pitlane? You shouldn’t have done it.
“It’s a tough one. I didn’t have time to talk to my my engineer and say, ‘Should I abort, should I not?’ I did everything I thought I should have done but it sucks, because I guess in the end, there’s a rule.
“Also sometimes there’s some more leniency to certain situations, when the driver has still done the best thing that’s possible to do in that situation.
“So a bit gutted because three places back is going to make our life a lot more difficult tomorrow. I don’t feel like it’s a fair decision. But it is what it is.”