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Formula 1

Verdict: Were stewards right to penalise Norris and Perez?

by Matt Beer
6 min read

The Austrian Grand Prix was littered with penalties, and those for incidents involving Sergio Perez and round-the-outside passes were by far the most contentious.

After giving Lando Norris a 5s penalty for the incident in which Perez ended up off the road and down in 10th early in the race, the stewards gave Perez himself two separate 5s penalties for similar clashes with Charles Leclerc later in the race.

Were those penalties all justified? Our writers give their verdicts.

Inconsistency is maddening

Scott Mitchell

The real irritation is the stewards keep chopping and changing how they view these incidents. Sure, it was all the same this race but it hasn’t been in others.

When Max Verstappen forced Leclerc wide in Austria two years ago it was hard racing. The same a few races later when Leclerc bumped Lewis Hamilton off at the chicane at Monza.

Last year, Hamilton got a penalty for pushing Alex Albon wide at Turn 4 in the first Austria race. The following week Lance Stroll absolutely divebombed Daniel Ricciardo and only evasive action from Ricciardo avoided a shunt – but got Stroll away with it.

Even this year… two weeks ago Pierre Gasly forced Norris wide at Paul Ricard. So Norris has literally been given a precedent TWO WEEKS ago that it’s OK to run the other driver out of road. Now he and Perez have been penalised for it this weekend.

It’s maddening. We can think what we want in terms of how we view hard racing – and personally my view is that if you risk it on the outside, you have to accept you might come off second-best. As long as it’s not done maliciously or clumsily I think it’s just about OK.

But what really matters is the FIA’s judgement. And right now, how can you tell what the stewards will consider a fair move?

Only one penalty was deserved

Mark Hughes

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Austrian Grand Prix Race Day Spielberg, Austria

Of the three talking point penalties, the first Perez one was justified.

He had to physically steer the car out there to push Leclerc onto the kerbs. It was cack-handed and unsubtle.

The Norris penalty was verging on ridiculous. Perez chose to hang on around there until he had the contact – Norris didn’t drive into him (unlike what Perez later did to Leclerc).

The second Perez-Leclerc incident probably wasn’t penalty-worthy, just hard racing, but Perez had probably made himself vulnerable to penalty as he was a bit of a marked man by the stewards at this point.

All three were needless

Gary Anderson

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Austrian Grand Prix Race Day Spielberg, Austria

I’m not a fan these five-second penalties. This is racing and if you put yourself in a vulnerable position by trying to go around the outside then sometimes you will pay the price.

Otherwise, overtaking just becomes that bit easier because if you can’t pass someone on track then just dive up the outside, allow the driver on the inside to use the racing line, which they have the right to do, and this will by definition push you wide. Hang in there and wait for the five-second penalty to be applied.

All three of today’s 5s racing penalties, one for Norris against Perez, and two for Perez against Leclerc, were exactly the same.

The overtaking driver tried the risky move of going around the outside and paid the price. That should be what racing is all about and we all want to see it.

In Norris’s case, it happened on more or less the first racing lap, which normally allows for a little more leniency. If you looked closely at Turn 1 and 3 on the actual first lap of the race before the safety car came out, many drivers should have received 5s penalties for pushing others off the track.

So in my opinion, this was another race affected by stewards’ decisions when the moves should be put down to racing incidents. No one blatantly drove anyone off the track.

Driver on the outside needs to take some responsibility

Edd Straw

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Austrian Grand Prix Race Day Spielberg, Austria

Everyone wants to see good, hard fair racing in F1 and part of the requirement for that is the need to give space to your rivals when appropriate. But there is also a principle in play that the overtaking driver must weigh up the risks.

Passes around the outside are always tricky to pull off and there is the ever-present risk of running out of road – particularly at Turn 4 in Austria.

That means there is some responsibility from the driver who opts for the outside line. Perez is a good example – when he passed Norris, he expected to be given the space that he did not give Leclerc later on when on the inside.

Of the three ‘offences’, the first Perez one in battle with Leclerc at Turn 4 was the most problematic given there was contact much earlier in the corner. But when it came to the second offence that Perez was penalised for, it was clear that Leclerc was always going to end up taking a bite of the gravel when he launched a high-risk move on the outside of Turn 6. He was heading down a cul-de-sac.

In the case of the Norris/Perez one, there’s a point shortly after the entry where the Red Bull driver should have realised he was going to end up facing the gravel at the exit given the McLaren was ahead.

But it’s less a question of the rights and wrongs of the penalties and more about the racecraft of the drivers involved.

If you put yourself on the outside in sketchy situations, there will be times when it’s detrimental to your race. After all, penalties for other drivers don’t give you back the time you lose.

That doesn’t mean that a driver on the inside can also shove a driver on the outside off, but neither should drivers expect to hurl a car on the outside line and expect it to be made easy for them.

Teams have pushed to over-regulate F1

Glenn Freeman

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Austrian Grand Prix Race Day Spielberg, Austria

By the letter of the law, all of those penalties were probably correct. And the reason such strict rules exist around leaving space for a driver on the outside of a corner is because teams and drivers have pushed for that whenever they have been the victim of these kinds of incidents.

I’d be happy with an interpretation of ‘if you go for a move around the outside, that’s the risk you are taking’. And to be fair to Christian Horner, he seemed to be taking that view after Perez lost out in the clash with Norris, before word of a penalty came through.

That always used to be the view of this type of attempted overtake. Have times changed? Possibly. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.

If the rules are policed consistently (see Scott Mitchell’s argument above), then drivers have to learn that if someone attacks them on the outside, they have to leave space. We might even get more wheel-to-wheel action, and battles that last for longer like what we saw between George Russell and Fernando Alonso.

But the drivers can’t have it both ways. They can’t cry on the radio when they go to the outside and run out of room, but then do it to someone else when the roles are reversed.

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