Lando Norris, McLaren, Baku Street Circuit, 2022

F1 should penalise those who ‘obviously’ slow on purpose in qualifying – Norris

2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers should not be able to hinder their rivals during qualifying, Lando Norris and others claimed after last weekend’s race in Azerbaijan.

Fernando Alonso was accused of deliberately driving slowly during qualifying by Alexander Albon. The Alpine driver ran ahead of several cars on his final run in Q1, then drove into the escape road at turn 15, bringing out the yellow flags which prevented those behind him from being able to improve their lap times.

Two weeks earlier in Monaco several drivers were unable to set times at the end of Q3 when Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz Jnr crashed. Similar problems have occured repeatedly on tracks with limited run-off.

This has prompted some to call for F1 to adopt rules used in IndyCar and other series where drivers who cause yellow or red flags in qualifying have one or more of their best lap times deleted, to ensure they cannot benefit from their error. Norris believes F1’s rules need to be tightened up in this area, especially for drivers who may have intentionally tried to compromise their rivals.

“I was one of the guys who caused the yellow [on Saturday], but just to get out of the way of Seb [Vettel],” he said. “I think there’s a difference between people doing it by accident – and people doing it to get out of the way of people by not causing blue flags and whatever when you’re in qualifying business – versus people who quite obviously do it on purpose. Especially when you’re one-and-a-half seconds down on the push lap.”

However Norris admitted such a rule would add to the loss incurred by any driver who made a mistake in qualifying.

“It’s tough. You always say it until you’re the one that does something wrong, and then you’re like ‘I wish that rule wasn’t introduced’ because you just made a simple mistake. Or like when I spun in Imola, then I guess I’d say I wish there’s no rule.

“Obviously when someone else does it, you say you wish that was a rule. So it’ll always bite someone at some point. But of course people who are more vocal about it are the ones who just haven’t made a mistake just yet.”

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Esteban Ocon believes stricter qualifying rules are needed for street races especially because of the greater chance of interfering with another driver’s lap.

Race start, Baku Street Circuit, 2022
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“At the moment Monaco and [Baku] I’ve been suffering for that in qualifying. Probably people would take more care if they get penalised.

“It would be less easy to take a risk and just go down the escape road. So I would definitely be in favour of changing that for the street circuits.”

However Alonso believes introducing such a rule would bring practical challenges, such as determining whether a driver had committed a genuine mistake. He pointed to the example of Kevin Magnussen stopping his broken Haas at the side of the track during Sunday’s grand prix.

“It’s going to be always difficult,” said the Alpine driver. “It’s like in the race if you crash in one corner or if you park [I think] it was one Haas that parked in turn 15 if you park there or you park 10 metres after that, maybe you have a Safety Car deployment, depending on if you take a good position or not. And then we will penalise Haas driver because he chose the wrong thing? So we need to be careful on how we enter and how we do those things.”

However he does believe the rules for qualifying sessions need to be reconsidered. “Especially qualifying should be different,” he said. “We are dealing with problems of a slow laps, minimum time to respect traffic in the last corner, tows, no tows. I think we we should be clever and think [of] another format in qualifying.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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37 comments on “F1 should penalise those who ‘obviously’ slow on purpose in qualifying – Norris”

  1. Good idea. You cause a flag, you lose your lap. No interest in whether it was intentional or not. Just keep it simple.

    1. Agreed. Also adds an extra level of interest to each of the qualifying laps where you have to be perfect or you pay a penalty. I’m definitely not an opposed to that. The only exceptions should be technical failures, losing a lap over an engine dying or a tire blowing up would not make much sense to me, but other than that, fair game.

      I also feel delta times should be 90% of the pole lap time, they’re way too high in their current iteration if cars can virtually stop on track and still make it.

    2. @davidrollinson Only ever if intentional, as penalizing for a genuine error would be unfair since no one’s perfect, so mistakes are possible & belong to motorsport.
      Penalizing for something entirely out of drivers’ control, such as a sudden brake failure would be even more unfair.

      1. It’s worked out pretty well for IndyCar. You lose a brake during qualifying, you’ve got more serious things than a deleted lap time to worry about.

    3. I really don’t like the idea of losing laps for hard driving.
      It just encourages everyone to take fewer risks, which in turn just turns everywhere into Monaco where nobody really pushes.

      1. @S Spot-on.

      2. It’s not for “hard” driving– it’s for “poor” driving. These are supposed to be the best racers in the world– losing control of their car by over-driving the corner isn’t really what they’re supposed to do, and the whole point of practice is to make sure they know where the grip is.

        IndyCar, which has this system, doesn’t have people soft-balling the qualifying. They’re flat out, and then some.

      3. Not really while 1 driver slows down a real driver gives his 110% so the beter drivers will be in front. What will happen is people crashing after setting the fastest time will be gone and the other drivers could finish ahead are ahead!

    4. There is even 1 more good reason of removing the fastest lap. Q3 will be continious driving no staying in the garage and we the public sees something for our money.
      Driver have to drive multiple laps (or even continious) which gives us more to watch!

  2. As long as F1 insists on running races on narrow St circuits with limited vision and near zero run off this problem will persist…but hey the show.

    1. @johnrkh Indeed. Permanent circuits with vast runoff areas never really/rarely have such an issue.

      1. Those same circuits also don’t have any form of jeopardy, as the the track limits are rarely enforced properly either.

    2. Maybe they should go for single-lap qualifying, just at that kind of circuit. That was something suggested last year by…Alonso.

  3. Firstly, foolish by Norris to claim something he can’t prove himself anyway, but no, the approach ever since Leclerc’s crash in last season’s Monaco Q3 is the right one, i.e., doing nothing.
    People bringing this matter up over & over again since last season’s Monaco Q3 has been both redundant & annoying.
    No one causes yellow or red on purpose, nor can one truly prove so anyway.
    The infamous 2006 Rascassegate is the only purposeful one in QLF.
    Furthermore, penalizing for merely making an error would only bring unintended consequences such as when a driver goes off through something breaking or, for instance, a brake failure, totally out-of-control things.
    All in all, penalizing would only ever be right & fair if intentional. Otherwise, never.

    1. I like how you go from “no one does this” to “except when this happened” in the span of two sentences.

    2. I should’ve added that the 2003-05 one-lap format would be the only way to eliminate the possibility of drivers getting affected by yellows & reds altogether.
      Unfortunately, this format had more cons than pros, so unworthy of reintroduction.

  4. I think this a good rule change to borrow from other racing series. Cause a flag? Lose your next previous lap.
    It will sometimes double-punish drivers who commit a genuine error on their second lap, but even that is OK with me… After a driver has a good banker lap in, they tend to push to beyond the limits on the next lap, knowing that even if they mess up, they can fall back to the banked lap. This would take away that safety margin.

  5. There are so many situations where penalties could (and should) be used to enforce safe and sporting behaviour.
    The sector delta thing is just plain stupid, IMO, and is just inviting and encouraging dangerously slow driving.
    Slow is slow, no matter how long a car takes to get through the sector.
    F1/FIA really need to have a rethink about what driving unnecessarily slowly actually means – because the current interpretation is nothing like the wording of the rule.

    As for punishing drivers who go off during qualifying – the stewards have all the data that the teams do. If they can’t come to a reasonable conclusion as to whether something was deliberate or accidental, then there’s no point having that system in place at all.
    The decisions won’t always be right, but that’s the way it goes in sport.

    1. As for punishing drivers who go off during qualifying – the stewards have all the data that the teams do. If they can’t come to a reasonable conclusion as to whether something was deliberate or accidental, then there’s no point having that system in place at all.

      Indeed! Sometimes it’s simply not broken, but merely annoying to those who shout for changes.

  6. For anyone that hasn’t seen it, Palmer’s analysis of Alonso’s “mistake” in Q1 is quite interesting and thoroughly backed by both telemetry data and video evidence.

    1. Yes, @warheart, I’ve watched it and it just confirmed my feeling during live broadcast that the “mistake” is not a mistake. You just don’t try to improve your lap time on used tires and watching mirrors. And the steering corrections are sub par for the driver of Alonso’s caliber. It was intentional.

  7. How about giving penalty points – one for the first infringement of the season, two for the second . . . . how many times would a driver consciously impede a competitor if that happened and they were looking at sitting a race out.

    You need the clerk of the course to set reasonable maximum sector times and after that it is a slam dunk, you were too slow – you are penalized.

  8. Time to move on from what that buffoon called Albon has to say. After altering the final positions between the 2 WDC contenders in Monaco, obviously making LEC lose 3rd to VER, this guy should just shut up.

    1. @mg1982 Indeed. His complaint about Alonso blocking & hampering him was hypocritical after his race-fixing style behavior in Monaco.

  9. It always surprises me that we have all these complaints about drivers going slowly & impeding etc…now when we didn’t in the past at times when there were many more cars, Much larger performance deficits between the cars (And drivers) with far less data available, spottier team radio reception & much smaller mirrors (And of course if you go back a bit further they didn’t have any data or radio).

    Was it less of an issue in the past because everyone just accepted things as been part of the sport & so didn’t complain about it as much? Were drivers more aware of cars coming up behind them & more willing to get out of the way? Or maybe they were just better at making there way through any traffic they encountered (Also considering how blue flags worked as only a warning rather than a call to jump out of the way)?

    And on yellow/red flags. It’s no doubt frustrating if your lap gets hindered by them but I don’t like the ‘Indycar rule’ of losing lap times & so don’t want to see it adopted by F1. If a driver is suspected of doing something intentionally then investigate it & penalise him if he has. But a genuine mistake shouldn’t suffer further penalties.

    1. @stefmeister I couldn’t agree more with you.

    2. @stefmeister for a large chunk of the history of the sport, the qualifying format was such that it wasn’t as much of an issue as it might be today.

      From 1950 to 1995, qualifying was based on the best times you set in the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday – so, if there was some sort of disruption, such as a yellow flag, it didn’t really matter as you could have as many goes as you liked at setting a faster lap time, and the sessions were considerably longer.

      From 1996 to 2002, you had 12 laps distributed over a one hour session, which effectively meant you had four goes at setting a qualifying time – so, it wasn’t usually that critical because you would usually have multiple attempts within the same session to set a lap time.

      After dabbling with having a single car out at a time for a couple of years, the modern elimination style qualifying system effectively came in from 2006. It’s really only once you have a system where the individual sessions are quite short and there are stricter limits on the number of tyres you can use up in qualifying, which means you’re heavily dependent on just one or two laps, that having a yellow or red flag at the wrong time could have such a significant impact.

      The reporting aspect is also something that is important – bear in mind that qualifying wasn’t televised until the 1990s, and the level of access we have to radio transmissions, telemetry etc. is quite modern. Without that same level of technology, most of those incidents would have been missed because nobody would have recorded it at the time, and the reporters at the track would probably have not been aware of it or not really bothered reporting on it.

      Certainly, the idea of one driver disrupting another is not unknown during those sessions is not unknown, and there are examples of drivers deliberately doing so – for example, during qualifying for the 1985 Monaco GP, after setting the best time in the session, Senna went out and deliberately blocked Alboreto from setting a better lap time, until Alboreto eventually got fed up and basically backed Senna into a corner at Nogues.

      However, most of the time those sorts of incidents wouldn’t have been reported because they wouldn’t have been seen – we only know about the Senna-Alboreto incident at Monaco in 1985 because a French TV crew caught it by luck (but, because it was only a single French TV company, most are completely oblivious about that incident).

      There is also the element that, these days, yellow flags are more likely to be used sooner and they tend to be enforced more strictly, whilst red flags are more commonly used than they would have been in the past – so, although those disruptions could occur, they probably would have been rarer as well.

  10. It’s hard to police, so I’m against it. I prefer drivers pushing as hard as they can and causing a yellow than everyone taking it a bit easier… cars already look sluggish these days, so them driving with an even bigger margin of error doesn’t appeal to me at all.

    This a consequence of this format which promotes such things. They designed this qualy format to make it “exciting” at all times with something always happening on track, so you have a lot of people doing the same thing at the same time, with seconds to spare. Worse even when there’s a red flag and it’s a rush to get a lap in the limited time available.

    Anything you do to patch it up would only make it even worse IMO.

  11. Yup, outlap should be at high speed, awesome in all ways maybe 9/10ths of regular speed.

    Causing a yellow ala Rosberg in Monaco should lead to laptime deletion,..

    And holding people up should not be much of a problem at 90% pace.

  12. The IndyCar qualifying rule that F1 should adopt isn’t losing best times for causing red flags, it’s having the timing line before the pit entry so that you can complete your hot lap and immediately pit.
    Allows more time for turn around if you want another lap, and importantly gets cars off the track quicker, avoiding congestion with cars cruising slowly back to the pits.
    Also wastes less fuel and rubber!

    1. @eurobrun didn’t know that. It makes a whole load of sense!

  13. It’s amazing how young people love to whine. But not suprising.

  14. This comment section is not what I would make it.

  15. There’s a couple of things:

    If tyres weren’t so weak, outlaps wouldn’t require drivers tip toeing around so as to not take any life out of their tyres. Surely it’s not that hard to make a soft tyre that is good for 3 – 5 laps without a huge amount of deg.

    Too many teams are waiting until the very last second to send their drivers out and it’s just plain crazy. Deciding to put your driver out into, or at the end of a big pack of cars is rarely, if ever, going to give that driver maximum advantage for a good lap. Yet still they persist. The rules don’t need changing – maybe team decisions do.

  16. I have been pointing this out all year. Some tes go out on the last run of q1 just to make fill the track. Easy fixes, have a delta like vsc for outlaps and iv you cause a yellow you lose your fastest time also please do not allow laps to stand even if yellow affected.

  17. Just a random thought, could be a silly one too :)
    * The 20 cars can be split into 2 groups, with 10 cars in each group
    * The car number gets displayed/called randomly one after the other with a specific gap interval (calculated based on the lap time), for eg., 10 secs after the first car crossed the pit exit.
    * The car has to make its way out and the out lap should be in a specific range(again circuit dependant) specified by the officials.
    * Once the first group completes their lap, the next group of (10)cars will be announced one by one.
    * This would avoid the bunching of cars in sector 3 and avoid the dependency on tows from other cars.
    * There can be 2 attempts per session. If a car wouldn’t like to do a second attempt as the driver/team is content with the timings set in his first lap, the car can remain stationary and the next car will be called out.

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