F1 drivers divided as Lando Norris sides with Alonso over big Russell crash

Henry Valantine
Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris smiling in Bahrain.

Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris smiling.

Lando Norris was among the drivers to say he did not agree with Fernando Alonso being punished for his role in George Russell crashing in Australia last time out.

While some drivers believed Alonso was deserving of punishment, having been given a post-race drive-through penalty (converted to a 20-second time penalty), others did not – with McLaren driver Norris believing his friend Russell “should have seen it coming” from the two-time World Champion.

Lando Norris among drivers to disagree with Fernando Alonso penalty

Nico Hulkenberg in particular spoke in support of the punishment the Aston Martin driver received, questioning his story of a stuck throttle after the race and adding he “wasn’t very impressed” with how he drove at that corner.

Norris, meanwhile, explained that while Alonso’s driving was unorthodox in that moment, he did not believe it was deserving of a penalty.

“What Fernando did was odd, like, extreme, but I don’t think it’s even close to being regarded as a brake test,” Norris told media in Japan.

“Did he brake and downshift? I don’t know the exact things of it, but should it be a penalty in any way? No.

“George, in my opinion, should have seen it coming. I don’t want to comment too much on it, but George had time to see what was going on.

“I’m sure it’s always tougher being in the situation, so that’s why I don’t like commenting on it, but that kind of thing shouldn’t have been a penalty.

“I think this clear he’s in front. Like Max and Hamilton [in 2021], that’s a brake test, you know – this was not a brake test. This was just trying to play very smart, Fernando being Fernando, and kind of being caught out by it.

“But it was not aggressive, it was not like one metre in front of a car stopping. It was like 100 metres ahead and slowed down and just the approaching speed caught George off. But nowhere near should that be a penalty, I would say.”

When asked if the outcome of the accident, with Russell landing in the middle of the circuit after hitting the wall at speed, had an impact in decision-making, Norris replied: “I think you can’t ignore it, can you? A guy ends up in the middle of track and in a wall.

“If it was an all-tarmac runoff, I feel like it probably wouldn’t have been a penalty. If George has lost it a bit and even if he still came on to the track with nothing, it maybe still would have been thought of, but if it was just a runoff, it would have just looked like George did something. But I don’t know, I’m not the one in there making that decision. So probably best for me not to comment, but I love to comment.”

When it was put to Alonso in Japan that Russell’s crash had an impact in him being given a penalty, he responded: “100%.

“If it was in Abu Dhabi with a run-off area in asphalt or whatever, I think George would rejoin the track a few metres after that and will try to have a go at me on the following lap or on the following straight, and it will not be any fault.”

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Drivers’ opinions split on Fernando Alonso penalty

The incident was a hot topic of conversation throughout media day in Japan, so here is what some of Alonso and Russell’s rivals had to say when asked about the subject:

Valtteri Bottas: “I was quite surprised about the penalty, to be honest.

“Yeah, it’s on the limit. It was clear what he did, that he tried to kind of kill the momentum of George for the back straight.

“I think, if George would have not ended up in the wall, or going off the track, probably then there would have not been a penalty – it made it look quite dramatic.

“I still feel like the car ahead should always be allowed to choose the speed and the line. But it’s a fine line, whether you can do so. I was quite surprised by the penalty.”

Charles Leclerc: “It’s something that we do as drivers, however, not to that extent.

“I mean, what Fernando did in Australia was too much and had to be penalised.”

Lance Stroll: “I thought it was ridiculous, to be honest.

“I don’t think he did anything stupid, he was just preparing the exit of the corner. For me, it was ridiculous, to get a drive through penalty for an incident that doesn’t even involve any contact between the cars or anything like that. So yeah, I didn’t really understand it.”

Sergio Perez: “I think we all know what’s acceptable, what’s within the limits.

“I mean, knowing the drivers, especially like Fernando, he always does this, this sort of tricks, let’s put it that way. Always within the limit.

“You know, I think Fernando is a very aggressive driver, but always within the limits. I’ve had great fights with him, he’s one of the drivers I trust the most, but I have to say that he was a bit a bit too much to the limit, or probably over the limit.”

Oscar Piastri: “I think giving a penalty for it potentially creates a very, very tricky precedent for everybody.

“Giving a car a penalty for no contact and I mean, quite frankly, it wasn’t a crash out of avoidance.

“You know, I could understand that if George was trying to avoid Fernando and had to swerve off the track, then, yes, understandable, but giving someone a penalty for causing dirty air? I mean, I’m sure a lot of qualifying sessions would go very differently if we started doing that. So I was a bit surprised by the penalty.”

Kevin Magnussen: “I feel like that was a pretty harsh penalty. I wasn’t in the car, in either Russell or Alonso’s car, of course, but it didn’t look to me like it was solely Alonso’s fault.

“But I think it’s just important to have, as we always say, consistency so we can anticipate, so we can drive to the limit of the rules, and not over it.

“I think that incident is a pretty unique one – it’s not one that I’ve seen before, where a driver brakes early and then the guy behind crashes.

“That’s not something I’ve seen every day, so it’s a new situation and if they had given Alonso a reprimand, I wouldn’t have thought that was out of order, you know, but they gave him a drive through and a big, big penalty. So I was a little bit surprised to see that, but it is what it is.”

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