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Formula 1

Norris: F1 restart critics don’t know what goes on in cars

by Edd Straw, Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Lando Norris says those blaming Formula 1 drivers for the incidents at the final standing restart of the Australian Grand Prix “don’t know what’s going on inside the car”.

Norris pointed the finger at a combination of the late standing restart and the low grip of Pirelli rubber that isn’t a “tyre that feels like it should be on a Formula 1 car” for creating the conditions that led to the chaos that triggered a third red flag.

Carlos Sainz hit Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin into a spin at Turn 1 at the restart, with Pierre Gasly going off and then clashing with Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon shortly after rejoining the track. Williams driver Logan Sargeant also locked up and rear-ended Nyck de Vries’s AlphaTauri, putting both into the gravel and out of the race.

“Nothing against them, but they don’t know what’s going on inside the car,” said Norris when The Race asked him about criticisms of the drivers who caused the incidents.

“We have a soft [tyre] on that’s 65C and I can’t describe how little grip there is on track.

F1 Grand Prix Of Australia

“65C is not a bad temperature but the tyre doesn’t work, and on this surface with this track temp, I can’t describe how the grip is. That’s why you see everyone going straight on at Turn 1 and locking up.

“It’s 65C and a soft tyre and it provides literally no grip, so you have to brake so early, which causes chaos and incidents. But if the tyres felt like they gave us some grip, you’d be able to see a good race without chaos and some clumsiness and things like that.

“It’s just difficult. I wouldn’t say it’s just clumsy from everyone and you’re racing and there’s no grip, simple as that.

“We need a tyre that gives us more grip and actually a tyre that feels like it should be on a Formula 1 car, at the top of motorsport and at the moment on a day like today, it feels pretty terrible.”

Norris, who was talking immediately after the race, is right that the tyres don’t provide good grip if not fully up to temperature, which applies not only to the surface temperature but also the temperature inside the compound, which must build for it to properly ‘switch on’. Effectively, that means the point where the tyre is working as expected and chemically grips the track as intended.

But there were several factors that contributed to this problem. The track temperature had dropped by around 13C since the race-start proper, making it more difficult to build up the tyre temperature.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Race Day Melbourne, Australia

Given the cooling conditions, the smooth track surface laid in 2022 that made tyre warm-up a challenge all weekend, and just having the formation lap behind the safety car to get the tyres working, it was inevitable that many would struggle for grip at the restart.

Combined with the all-or-nothing nature of what was effectively now a two-lap ‘race’, there was always an increased chance of incidents.

That’s why Norris also questioned the motivation and the necessity for the late red flag and restart.

He suggested the stoppage wasn’t needed, albeit with the caveat that he had limited visibility of the accident site from the cockpit. The FIA said that the red flag was because of wheel debris from Kevin Magnussen’s crash.

“I don’t feel that the second red flag was needed,” said Norris. “It felt like it was just four laps to go [and] they don’t want to finish under safety car. [It] just caused a bad end to the race.

“If we just finished under safety car that would have been more straightforward, so a bit annoying from that side but I guess we got a bit lucky and got a position on Gasly. But also, [it] could have been a lot worse.”

Norris, who escaped the incidents at the final restart, said he believes it is too much of a lottery to have such a restart that can undo the work drivers have put in over the race distance.

He suggested the FIA should rethink the rules, although he did not argue for wholesale changes.

F1 Grand Prix Of Australia

“The whole point of red flagging it – it feels like – was just to put on a show,” said Norris.

“I feel like I could have been so unlucky through no reason. I feel like I easily could have crashed with [Nico] Hulkenberg at the end because you’ve got people off and suddenly swerving and things like that.

“We come all the way to Australia but it’s so much hard work, drive 55, 56 laps perfectly and because they try put on a show, you just get unlucky and everything can get taken away from you all of sudden.

“That side of it just needs a small rethink. I don’t think it needs a change, just a small rethink.”

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