Revisiting the Austrian GP: here’s how the race became a full-on penalty festival

Eleven drivers were summoned to give explanations to the stewards after the controversial race

By Olivia Kairu

Sergio Pérez fell from P3 to P10 after a scuffle with Lando Norris at Turn 4 early in the Austrian GP (Photo: F1/Twitter)

No less than eleven drivers – more than half the grid – were summoned to give explanations to the race stewards in a controversial Austrian Grand Prix on July 4.

Among them were Sérgio Perez and Lando Norris, who were both served five-second penalties for forcing drivers off the track. However, the McLaren driver felt wronged by the penalty that ruled in the Mexican’s favour, claiming his move shouldn’t have been deemed illegal or unfair. 

“I’m disappointed because it should’ve been second place. I thought that Lap 1 was just racing really. He tried to go around the outside, which was a bit stupid, and he just ran off the track himself, I didn’t even push him. I’m frustrated but I’m also happy with P3. We had very good pace.”

“It’s his risk to go around the outside. He [Perez] knows there’s gravel there,” said Norris. “You watch every other junior series. Every time someone tries to go around the outside and doesn’t commit to it they end up in the gravel. I didn’t even squeeze him off. You understeer around the corner anyway, he should have expected he wasn’t going to make it. I don’t know, I’m just annoyed because it cost us P2.”

Further listening: PODCAST l The Chicane Crew Podcast reviews the Austrian Grand Prix

After the Safety Car restart caused by Esteban Ocon’s retirement early in the race, Sergio Perez made an attempt to claim P2 from Lando Norris. The Mexican driver made a move on the outside of Turn 4 which ended with the Red Bull man in the gravel and down in P10.

As a result, the stewards handed Norris a five-second penalty which he served during his first pit stop at the McLaren garage. The Briton rejoined the race behind Bottas but managed to gain one place to finish in P3 after Lewis Hamilton suffered damage to his Mercedes. 

The penalty drew Norris two points closer to a race ban, having collected 10 points of a maximum 12 on his Super Licence. Two of those points have already expired on July 10th. 

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Perez felt differently on the matter, standing firm in his belief that his race was compromised after the first of three incidents he was involved in. 

“Obviously it was over the limit, but Lando got away and he didn’t have any damage while I basically got my race ruined,” he said.  “I got some damage from the gravel I guess. It was a disaster, my race. It was not fair racing.”

The Red Bull driver picked up penalties of his own when he forced Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc off the track twice, earning himself two five-second penalties and 4 penalty points. Perez no was a total of eight points on his Super Licence. 

“With Charles (Leclerc) I’m extremely sorry, that’s not the way I do my racing,” said Perez. “We’re running in dirty air, a lot of traffic, very old tyres and just braking as late as possible, running out of the road and ending up with contact.”

“I have to review all the incidents, to be honest, but that’s not the way I like to race. I’m really sorry if I affected the race of Charles because that’s not the way I do my racing. I spoke to him and explained what happened from my side but obviously, it’s not enough. I don’t feel happy or comfortable with myself knowing that I ruined a race for another driver.”

Leclerc spoke of his frustration but managed to reach a resolution with Perez after the race. 

“I was pretty angry in the car because obviously, it felt like I had no space,” said Leclerc. “I know the overtakes were quite optimistic but on the other hand, I had to (be) if I wanted to make it work. There was no space on the outside. There was quite a lot of tension under the helmet, now the helmets are off we have spoken. I think he knows he exaggerated, so that’s it and I will move on.”

Team principals react

Both McLaren and Red Bull Team Principals, Andreas Seidl and Christian Horner, respectively, felt that Norris did not deserve a penalty and chalked it up to a racing incident – contrary to the FIA’s point of view.

“I think I said in the commentary that I didn’t have a major problem with the Lando move,” Horner told Sky F1. “It was racing. It was hard racing. It was wheel-to-wheel, so then to get a penalty for that, I guess they gave themselves no choice when he had the same with Charles. But that’s racing.”

“Otherwise, you’re going to get drivers just chucking themselves off the circuit and claiming penalties. So it’s a bit disappointing. For me, that’s hard racing.”

Seidl also disagreed with the stewards’ decisions. “I also disagree with the penalty. It is at the beginning of the race and, in Michael Masi’s words, you learn in karting already that if you go there you will end up in the gravel. I think with the cars being side by side, I don’t think that is a penalty.”

Tsunoda also punished twice

Aside from Norris and Pérez, multiple other drivers were handed penalties during the chaotic race. 

Yuki Tsunoda received two five-second penalties for wrongful pit entry. During his first stop, the rookie was not within the white lines that mark the pit entry before Turn 9 and was served a five-second penalty. He soon received another penalty for the same offence after being warned on team radio.

“I thought I did the same as last week and free practice but I suddenly got penalties so I have to review what happened there, but I will try to avoid it next time,” Tsunoda said. “I did get a message but just before the pit entry so I was just doing the same thing.”

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F1 Race Director Michael Masi explained that warnings would be issued for wrongful pit entry during practice but had not noticed the AlphaTauri driver doing so throughout the weekend and only until the race. 

“There was a penalty issued for the first infringement, and I would have thought that the team would have explained what the infringement was,” said Masi. “It happened, identical again, during the second pit stop. The team and the driver have to take some responsibility.”

Tsunoda ended his race in P12 after qualifying 7th. He leaves Austria with two penalty points.

Other drivers also investigated

No less than eight other drivers were summoned to the stewards’ office and held under investigation after the race for refusing to slow down under double-waved yellow flags.

After Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel crashed at Turn 5 while battling for P12 during the final lap, the incident led to double-waved yellows which the FIA claimed were not respected.

Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel’s battle for 12th ended in a collision during the last lap of the race.

Raikkonen received a 20-second penalty which still left him 16th. 

Among the drivers summoned, Nikita Mazepin and Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi were the only drivers that received penalty points for refusing to respect the flags. The six other drivers were cleared and no further action was taken. 

George Russell was also under investigation for moving under braking in his battle for 10th with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso. 

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One thought on “Revisiting the Austrian GP: here’s how the race became a full-on penalty festival

  • July 15, 2021 at 12:22 pm

    Entendo que quando os comissarios adentram a pista tentando dirigir os carros acontece isso. Se é verdade que temos que nos preocupar com a segurança, menos verdade não é que a interferencia na corrida precisa ser cautelosa, com regras claras. No caso ou não foi bem explicado, ou os pilotos desco-nheciam ou ainda os fiscais ultrapassaram sua competencvia. Fico com a ultima opção.

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