Alex Albon, Williams; Lando Norris, McLaren; Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2023

McLaren “very surprised” by Norris’ penalty for “unsportsmanlike” driving

2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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McLaren team principal Andrea Stella said they did not expect Lando Norris would be penalised for slowing down during a Safety Car period in the Canadian Grand Prix.

Norris was found to have “significantly” slowed his car during the Safety Car period. The McLaren driver was running behind his team mate at the time, and slowing down while he could not be overtaken meant Oscar Piastri would be able to make his pit stop and leave the box before Norris arrived, avoiding the need for him to queue.

The stewards ruled Norris had violated the International Sporting Code. However Stella said the team disputed this with them after the race.

“We went and spoke to the stewards right after the race because we thought these kind of speeds under a Safety Car or even a Virtual Safety Car shouldn’t be reason of an infringement,” he said. “There’s a possibility that the stewards want to set new references. We’ll carry on discussing with them.

Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri, and Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Canadian Grand Prix in pictures
“Ultimately we trust their judgement but we are reviewing once again, right now, as we speak, the behaviour of Lando, because we come out of this race very surprised that this has caused a penalty.”

Norris’ five-second time penalty, for what the stewards called “unsportsmanlike” driving, cost him a points finish at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The stewards said he had slowed down excessively.

“During the Safety Car period the driver slowed to allow a gap to form between his team mate in car 81 [Piastri] and him,” the stewards explained. “In doing so he delayed the cars behind.

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“There was a significant difference in speed between car four [Norris] and car 81 between turns 10 and 13 (approximately 50 km/h).”

“Article 12.2.1.l of the ISC refers to ‘any infringement of the principles of fairness in competition, behaviour in an unsportsmanlike manner or attempt to influence the results of a competition, in a way that is contrary to sporting ethics’.”

Norris was given a five-second time penalty which dropped him from ninth at the chequered flag to 13th. Lance Stroll moved up to ninth as a result and Valtteri Bottas picked up the final point. Piastri and Pierre Gasly also gained places from Norris’ penalty.

The stewards cleared McLaren after investigating whether they released Norris from his pit box in front of Alexander Albon in an unsafe fashion during the race. “We note that whilst car 23 [Albon] had to perform some braking, in our view there was no risk of collision or the need for significant evasive action, hence we determine there was no unsafe release.”

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2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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26 comments on “McLaren “very surprised” by Norris’ penalty for “unsportsmanlike” driving”

  1. Interesting & weird

  2. Odd that he got penalized for this but Sainz only received a single penalty for an entire afternoon of dangerous driving.

  3. Interesting – I don’t recall a penalty actually being handed out for this before, although it is not exactly an uncommon practice and has been explicitly illegal for years. Perhaps Lando was a bit too blatant in how far he slowed down.

    1. Lewis got one in Bahrain 2017 and Fisichella in China 2005.

      Kimi escaped one in Belgium 2005 as well as Rubens in USA 2004. Kimi’s incident prompted the rule change.

      1. But there have also been many times when this hasn’t been penalised. As mentioned, it’s fairly standard practice to back up to make space for a double stack. It wouldn’t be if it was consistently penalised, but it isn’t.

        I certainly don’t remember it ever being penalised under “unsportsmanlike behaviour” rules before (though I may just not remember). There are specific rules about how to drive under the safety car. If he broke one of them, he should have been penalised under that. If he didn’t, if he followed the rules laid out, then giving him a sporting penalty under “unsportsmanlike behaviour” doesn’t feel right. A warning and a fine would have seemed more appropriate.

        1. @drmouse

          But “unsportsmanlike behavior ‘is’ a specific rule. It is detailed in the article.

          1. It’s a rule, certainly, but it’s not specific. It covers a whole range of possible behaviour, and is open to massive interpretation. It’s general rule, not a specific one.

            Instead, there are specific rules which set out how you should driver under the safety car, like:

            55.5 No car may be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person at any time whilst the safety car is deployed. This will apply whether any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the pit lane.

            Pretty much anything coupled be covered under the general “unsportsmanlike behaviour” rule, but would we be happy with the stewards penalising someone who left the track and gained an advantage under it? Ignoring blue flags? Breaking the pit lane speed limit? Overtaking under the safety car?

            Why bother having any other sporting regulations, when everything can be covered under “unsportsmanlike behaviour”?

          2. Why bother having any other sporting regulations, when everything can be covered under “unsportsmanlike behaviour”?

            Are the rules and the stewards there to satisfy discontent viewers?
            They don’t need to justify anything to anyone outside of F1. They don’t really even need to explain their decisions within F1 circles if they don’t want to.

            The fact is that this was unsporting behaviour, and was rightly penalised, under the existing sporting regulations. The exact wording and compartmentalisation of the explanation is irrelevant.

            The FIA must be free to run their own series in their own way, and not be pressured or dictated to by outsiders and/or biased competitors.

          3. Are the rules and the stewards there to satisfy discontent viewers?

            No, but as many (including yourself) keep reminding me, the show is important. If the stewards appear inconsistent, that lessens the show for many people, myself included.

            The FIA are free to run their own series their own way. However, we are also free to criticise them if we do not think they are running it correctly, as are the drivers, the teams, the media etc. The FIA don’t have to listen, but equally we don’t have to accept their continual inconsistency without comment.

          4. The bulk of the audience don’t really care what the rules are, as long as they produce a competitive and entertaining racing series.

            Sure, we can all have our opinions on whether the series is being run correctly – but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we think. If the FIA makes a decision, it is the correct one unless they decide they made a mistake. It is an absolute, as they are both the judge and the jury. And they wrote (or at least, accepted) the rules in the first place.

            I’d suggest that a very small percentage of people have ever actually read the ISC and F1’s sporting regs – which means that most people who are complaining are doing so without an informed basis to build on.
            They merely don’t like a decision that has been made rather than actually justifying why it is wrong.

            As an aside to that – reading the regs and watching F1 creates an instant mismatch anyway. The F1 that I see doesn’t resemble the regs as written at all. Some of the clearest and most concise rules are ignored completely as though they aren’t even there, and some are contradicted by others.
            Which is why I state that the FIA’s application is the correct one. The regs are written explicitly to be interpreted in multiple ways in order to be applicable to every nuance of every incident. There is simply no other way to do it.
            If it were all truly applied consistently to the wording, it would appear to be inconsistent (and both extremely harsh and dangerously lenient) – equally, intentionally applying it all inconsistently can lead to the appearance of being more consistent.

          5. If the FIA makes a decision, it is the correct one unless they decide they made a mistake.

            This is correct, but it doesn’t make it right.

            We often see two near-identical incidents handled completely differently to each other. This even occurs within the same race. While it is right that the stewards decision should be final, it should also be consistent. The majority of the time, drivers, team members and fans should be able to look at an incident and have a good idea how the stewards will handle it. This is the case in most other sports, and even most other motorsports, but it isn’t in F1 (and hasn’t been for as long as I’ve been watching). This creates all sorts of negative effects: accusations of bias/manipulation, confusion, even dangerous incidents occurring due to the drivers not knowing how they are supposed to behave in the circumstances. It leads to challenges off track and race results being changed a week after the event.

            If the regulations are contradictory (which I haven’t seen during extensive study of most of the regs), then the regulations themselves need to be fixed. That’s no reason to accept consistently-inconsistent rulings from the stewards. Just as it is the job of judges to interpret the law, it is the job of the stewards (as a whole) to interpret the regulations. Where inconsistencies and contradictions appear in the regulations, they should come to a consistent consensus between them and apply that interpretation consistently until the regulations are fixed. Instead, week after week we see different interpretations of the same rule applied to near-identical incidents… We may as well just flip a coin to determine whether each incident is to be penalised.

  4. Slam dunk penalty. Can’t do that kind if gamesmanship these days.

    Surprised no penalty for the Albon incident. Surely forcing the car behind to break is confirmation of impediment?

    1. Not applicable. He had the racing line & the lead so he was entitled to the tarmac in that scenario. Never was in question.

  5. I’ve noticed in other sports I watch like ice hockey that refs are starting to explain/justify their calls more. I think this is a bad idea and reinforces the knuckleheads of the internet complaining about everything. Make a call and explain it only to the parties involved.

  6. Reminds me of Inconsiderate Riding – something James Hunt may have been guilty of, and also a common offence by MotoGP racers.
    Usually it results in a Long Lap Penalty, and I wonder if it’s time for those in F1, instead of time penalties that hang over a driver until the next stop or chequered flag, discouraging racing (no need to pass a driver with a penalty) and track-limits giving-place-back that drivers and teams seem to apply at their convenience.

    1. Hows ’bout Lewie gettin a free ride on pullin’ out in Al?

      1. Amazed they both got away with those releases. Must have been an all-Brit panel of stewards!

  7. Good decision by the stewards, hopefully this is how they’ll handle this from now on. As mentioned above, other such manipulations have been penalized at times, but not consistently. In addition to the Code, the safety car procedure in the F1 Sporting Regulations is also very clear – and has been since the mid 2000s when McLaren engaged in some shenanigans with this:

    55.5 No car may be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person at any time whilst the safety car is deployed. This will apply whether any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the pit lane.

    1. Stephen Taylor
      19th June 2023, 10:28

      Norris wasn’t punished under the F1 Sporting Regs he was punished under the FIA ISC for ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’

  8. Bottas also avoided penalty for this in Jeddah 2021. At that time Mercedes argued that Bottas was never more than 10 car lengths behind Hamilton. Could Mclaren have made their case with that data?

    1. Apart from penalising under a general rule instead of the specific one which applies to the situation, this is my biggest problem with this: yet again, there is no consistency. Sometimes the drivers are punished for this, sometimes they are not. We’ve seen most teams/drivers do this at some point, yet I doubt more than half of the incidents were penalised.

      Given that it was better odds than a coin flip that they wouldn’t be penalised, and that Norris probably gained more than a 5s advantage, it’s no wonder drivers/teams will use these tactics.

      Yet another example of inconsistent stewarding leading to drivers having little incentive to follow the rules.

    2. I might have remembered wrong, but I thought the 10 car rule didn’t apply in that case as they hadn’t formed up behind the safety car at the time. He should have been driving to his delta though. It could have been the case he was behind the delta as Norris was yesterday, but that it went unpunished.

    3. Sorry, I misread your comment. Ignore my response!

    4. Unlikely, because it seems the stewards have finally figured out that the teams are doing this on purpose (imagine!), so they’re apparently clamping down on it with catch-all provisions in the Code. Long overdue!

      As @oweng notes, the ten car lengths come up in relation to the “line behind the safety car”, as it would be impossible to enforce this from the moment the SC is called.

  9. Regardless of the penalty, McLaren are in a shocking place just at the moment.

  10. Finally someone is penalized for this. It should be a drive-thru’ at least, not just 5 seconds. It’s so obvious why they are doing it and so unfair to everyone behind.

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