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McLaren fears Norris a victim of new FIA precedent after Canada F1 penalty

McLaren Formula 1 boss Andrea Stella believes that the penalty applied to Lando Norris in the Canadian Grand Prix reflects a “new reference” from the FIA for such situations.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

Stella said the team was “very surprised” that Norris was penalised for unsportsmanlike behaviour after being deemed to have created a gap to his team-mate Oscar Piastri prior to a double-stacked pit stop.

Norris was running behind the Australian when a safety car triggered by George Russell’s accident gave drivers an opportunity to make cheap stops. McLaren duly decided to double stack and pit both cars on the same lap.

The rules explicitly prevent drivers from going too slowly in the pit lane in order to create a gap if they are double stacking behind their team-mate.

However in this case Norris was reported for going too slowly on the track on the run from the hairpin back to the pit entry, thus holding up Alex Albon, who was just behind him and also intending to stop.

In their investigation, the stewards took note of McLaren’s radio traffic. While there was no smoking gun in terms of Norris being told directly to back off, it was deemed that the team had in effect given enough information, including the time gap to Piastri, for Norris to know what he had to do.

Norris was told “Lando, safety car, safety car. You are the second car, you are the second car. Oscar three.”

The stewards had the option to invoke the driving unnecessarily slowly rule, but instead, they referenced the International Sporting Code and the section that reads “any infringement of the principles of fairness in competition, behaviour in an unsportsmanlike manner or attempt to influence the results of a competition, in a way that is contrary to sporting ethics”.

They decided to hand Norris a five-second penalty that ultimately proved very expensive as it dropped him from ninth on the road to 13th in the final classification.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, in the pits

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, in the pits

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

McLaren believes that the use of the words 'unsportsmanlike behaviour' – a phrase that has rarely been invoked in F1 other than in the context of black and white warning flags during races – suggests that the FIA wants to set a new reference for situations such as double-stacking.

“In reality, we went and spoke to the stewards right after the race because we thought these kinds of speeds under a safety car or even a virtual safety car shouldn't be a reasonable infringement,” Stella said.

“There's a possibility that the stewards want to set new references. We carry on discussing with them. 

"Ultimately we trust their judgement, but we are reviewing once again right now as we speak the behaviour of Lando because we come out of this race very surprised that this has caused a penalty.”

Asked about precedents for the penalty, Stella said: “It's one of those where you really need to look into a great level of detail before you express too strong opinions. So let me do the due diligence.

“We understand the position of the stewards. We understand that they may want to set a precedent so that there's a kind of new way of interpreting the way you have to drive under a safety car. 

"If that's the approach, fine. But it's a bit of a shame that we are involved in this setting of a new precedent.”

Stella added that there had been no recent indication that the FIA had intended to clamp down on the double stacking issue.

“Not to my knowledge, but like I say, let me do the due diligence,” he said.

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren, in the Team Principals Press Conference

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren, in the Team Principals Press Conference

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“During the race, you can kind of look into this level of these details, but there's a race still going. We were also fighting for points.

“And also still, I think if we could have overtaken rather than being blocked, then we could have opened the five seconds. 

"So we are doing some of the work that we couldn't do during the race in terms of checking exactly the facts associated with this episode.”

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