Explained: How Lando Norris avoided FIA penalty for ‘false start’ in Saudi Arabia

Jamie Woodhouse
Lando Norris in the McLaren car

Lando Norris in the McLaren.

The FIA has said that the transponder fitted to Lando Norris’ McLaren did not indicate a jump start despite him moving ahead of the lights going out in Saudi Arabia.

Norris was keeping expectations in check for Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, claiming McLaren were “super super slow” down the straights at the high-speed Jeddah Corniche Circuit, though his joke that a “jump start” may be needed to battle the likes of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso almost became a reality.

Stewards cannot penalise Lando Norris after jump start suspicion

Mercedes’ George Russell sounded the alarm that Norris had moved in his grid box before the lights went out to start the Grand Prix, with onboard footage showing that Norris’ MCL38 had moved forward.

However, the stewards said that the FIA transponder on Norris’ car did not indicate a jump start, so no further action was taken.

“The stewards reviewed positioning/marshalling system data, video and determined that the video appeared to show that Car 4 moved before the start signal was given,” their report began.

“However, the FIA approved and supplied transponder fitted on the car did not indicate a jump start.

“Article 48.1 a) of the Formula One Sporting Regulations states clearly that the judgment of whether or not there was a jump start is to be made in accordance with the transponder, which did not show a jump start. In the circumstances, we took no further action.”

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Speaking about the situation with Sky F1 after the race, Norris was not quite sure what happened at the start, though stressed he gained no advantage at all from it.

“I don’t know what happened, it happened so quickly,” he said.

“I just went a little bit and then tried stopping again and then went again. But overall, I lost, I didn’t gain anything from it.”

Norris tried an alternate strategy to most of his peers, having passed on the chance to pit during an early Safety Car period, instead stretching his opening stint on the medium tyres until pitting for softs on Lap 38.

It was a gamble which did not ultimately pay off, Norris crossing the line P8, though he was pleased with the initiative shown and pointed out McLaren would have looked like “heroes” if there had been another SC appearance or a Virtual Safety Car.

“We just tried it, we took the gamble,” he said, “a Safety Car or a VSC could have come on late in the race and we would have looked like heroes, but we didn’t.

“I’m happy, we made a good decision, we tried something, it didn’t pay off today. It could have won us a lot of points and cost us maybe a couple points in the end of the day.

“You never know what’s going to happen, so I think we executed it well, the pace was strong on the mediums very late into the race. I expected a little bit more from the soft tyres at the end, but they just degraded after a couple of laps. Difficult, but I did what I could and I thought it was a good one.”

Norris’ McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri delivered an impressive drive to P4, McLaren sitting P3 in the early Constructors’ Championship standings.

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