The FIA have rejected McLaren’s attempts to have Lando Norris’ penalty for ‘unsportsmanlike’ behaviour in Canada overturned.
Norris was given a five-second time penalty at the Canadian Grand Prix, having slowed up enough under Safety Car conditions to allow teammate Oscar Piastri to pit ahead of him without holding himself up too much as McLaren performed a back-to-back pit stop.
But the stewards looked unfavourably upon the once-common tactic, slapping the British driver with a five-second time penalty for his ‘unsportsmanlike’ behaviour, with McLaren requesting a petition for a right to review the penalty during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend.
McLaren attempt to have Lando Norris penalty reviewed
A petition for a right to review is the first step in the process of having a penalty overturned. It’s not quite an appeal, it’s a submission of evidence to attempt to persuade the stewards that there is new, relevant, significant, and information available that wasn’t available at the time the penalty was handed out. All four points must be met in order for the petition to be successful.
In submitting their petition, McLaren felt that they had sufficient evidence in the form of precedent – examples of which were outlined in the FIA document after the stewards rejected the petition on Sunday in Austria.
The hearing was held on Sunday morning at the Red Bull Ring. In attendance were the Canadian Grand Prix stewards, with the FIA represented by Nikolas Tombazis and Steve Nielsen. McLaren sent along Andrea Stella and Randeep Singh, while Williams, Red Bull, Aston Martin, and Alpine also sent along representatives for the meeting as interested parties.
Mclaren’s submission was that a recent teams manager meeting (June 30th) with the FIA allegedly showed the understanding of all teams was that the alleged infringement should not be penalised. At the 2019 Canadian Grand Prix, a meeting of the team bosses led to an “understanding that this type of action was acceptable”.
McLaren submitted video, audio, GPS, and timing evidence of eight different instances where cars made a gap that allegedly had a negative impact on a competitor and allegedly were not penalised. McLaren also wrote that Car 23, Alex Albon, allegedly did not lose position in the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix as a result of Norris’ actions.
Williams argue the point against McLaren
Unsurprisingly, Williams disagreed with McLaren’s assessment. Agreeing that the recent team managers’ meeting were, arguably, “a new element”, Williams disagreed there was a general consensus that Norris should not have been penalised, making that meeting “not significant”, and that opinions at the recent team manager’s meeting were “not relevant”.
Williams also pointed out three similar occasions, one each in 2016, ’17, and ’18, where actions such as Norris’ were penalised.
Williams did agree that, at the discussion at the 2019 Canadian Grand Prix team bosses’ meeting that when Valtteri Bottas created a seven-second gap at Monaco that year, then-FIA Race Director Michael Masi had agreed this was acceptable.
The stewards ruled that the argument regarding Bottas at Monaco 2019 was significant, but failed on the points of being new, available, or relevant.
The incidents argued by McLaren as precedent were discarded, despite being seen as significant. As they weren’t new, and had been available information, the stewards also said they weren’t relevant.
Regarding McLaren’s proposition that Albon had not lost position as a result of Norris’ action, the stewards said it was significant but “not new, and not relevant,” but was “most likely” unavailable to McLaren at the time.
The stewards said that, while Albon did not directly lose a position, it was “impossible to predict the ‘cost’ of the gap that was created by Norris, on the race outcome for Albon.
“It is not impossible to consider that Norris may have been overtaken in the pits if a ‘doublestack’ had occurred,” read the verdict.
The stewards also pointed out the fact that the rules regarding the behaviour of drivers pitting under the Safety Car are not quite outlined properly in the Sporting Regulations: “Discussions, informal “gentlemen’s agreements” etc. cannot become binding unless and until they find their way into regulatory format, despite the good intentions of the parties concerned.
“Officials may only clarify, through the medium, for example, of Race Directors notes, certain matters, in accordance with Article 12.2.1.i. Such clarifications cannot contradict an existing regulation.”
McLaren accepted the outcome of the petition decision, saying: “We respect the FIA and Stewards’ decision to uphold Lando Norris’ 5-second time penalty at the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix. However, we believe that we provided sufficient new, significant and relevant evidence to warrant a ‘right of review’.
“We accept the Stewards’ decision that this evidence did not meet their requirements. Whilst it is not the outcome we hoped for, we thank the Stewards for their time and collaboration.”