Christian Horner said penalties were applied too liberally to drivers in the Austrian Grand Prix, and that F1 should avoid going down the path of penalising drivers for slight infringements or racing incidents.
Several drivers were on the wrong end of FIA sanctions at the Red Bull Ring, not least Sergio Perez – who was penalised twice for purportedly pushing Charles Leclerc off the track at Turns 4 and 6, with the Ferrari driver trying to make his way around the outside of the Mexican.
Perez tried a similar move around the outside on McLaren’s Lando Norris early in the race as he tried to make his way into the podium places. Norris stuck out his elbows and Perez went onto the gravel, gaining a five-second penalty in the process. Despite the move affecting his driver, Horner said the McLaren driver shouldn’t have received a penalty for that manoeuvre.
With the move being seen by some as simply hard racing rather than rule breaking, the Red Bull team principal doesn’t want penalties handed out for moves that would discourage drivers from going for audacious overtakes.
“You don’t want the equivalent of footballers taking a dive,” said Horner, quoted by Motorsport.com. “I think we need to avoid that.
“I know it’s incredibly difficult, because we talk about these things very often, and it’s difficult for the race director, but I did feel that maybe the incidents that we did see could have been leant to more racing incidents than been deserving of penalties.
“The incident between Checo and Lando, that’s racing. You go around the outside, you take the risk, particularly when you’re not in a position of being ahead.
“But I think the FIA, having awarded that [first] penalty, then couldn’t not award a penalty for a very similar move with Charles.
“These guys have raced in karting from when they were kids, and know if you go around the outside you take the risk, particularly if you’re not ahead.
“So yeah, I think the penalties were a bit harsh and it sort of does slightly go against the ‘let them race’ mantra that we’ve been championing in recent years.”
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Horner added that he felt Perez was right to try and get past Norris and be pro-active in doing so, rather than sitting behind and losing any potential strategic benefits.
Despite gaining further penalties later on, Horner was pleased with how the Mexican reacted to the adversity in front of him and still come home in the points.
“I think he knew that it was going to be very hard to pass Lando, because he was so quick on the straight,” he said. “He was trying to get the move done quickly, and obviously it was a shame at that point to lose your buffer with Mercedes.
“He then picked up another couple of penalties with Charles. But I think once he managed to get himself past Daniel [Ricciardo] and into clear air, then he drove incredibly well. He got his head down and built that 10 seconds by the end of the race to Daniel.”