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Formula 1 Italian GP

Norris: “Dangerous” F1 close call with Ocon triggered by lap time delta

Lando Norris says his incident with Esteban Ocon during Formula 1 qualifying in Monza was triggered by the need to stay within the maximum lap time delta mandated by the FIA.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Early in Q1, Ocon passed Norris before the Ascari chicane, and Norris then re-passed heading in Parabolica just before he started a hot lap, with the Alpine driver appearing to jink towards the McLaren as the pair turned in.

After completing the lap, as he was heading back to the pits, Norris told his team “what the Alpine driver did was very dangerous, by the way”.

After the session, Norris explained that he had to pass Ocon due to race director Niels Wittich demanding a maximum lap time for the notoriously busy Monza qualifying session, in an effort to ensure that drivers didn’t run too slowly in order to find a gap or cool their tyres.

“I think it helps in many ways,” the McLaren driver said of the rule. “It makes some things worse. You're forced into some situations rather than putting yourself into situations.

“The one with Esteban was just that he overtook me earlier in the lap. I think it was on an out-lap or something. So I was a little bit behind my delta and then I had to catch it up, so I just had to [pass him].

“He had a lot of time left on his delta so he could probably afford to back off for a lot more than what I could. So he was trying to have me over a little bit, but I just had to pass, otherwise, I would have been below my delta.”

Norris said it was a “cleaner session” than he had been expecting, possibly because a tow proved less valuable with 2023 aero packages than in past years.

“I think more cars didn't want to get as much of a tow,” he said. “Maybe like, tows were big in 2019, 2020, 2021; around here it was like six tenths, seven-tenths with a slipstream. Now maximum one, two-tenths probably, with a slipstream in today's qualifying.

“I'd say no one anyways seemed as bothered. No one wants to go first. No one was as bothered to kind of get the perfect slipstream, because I don't think that really existed today.”

Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 A523

Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 A523

Photo by: Erik Junius

Asked about the incident by Motorsport.com, Ocon denied that it was "dangerous". 

“It's always going to be very tight with this [maximum] lap time,” the Frenchman said. “I guess he was probably on the limit with his time. So he had to go in front.”

“I still had a little bit of margin. I think we managed pretty well, both of us. So that was not a problem. I don't think it was dangerous.”

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