Stella confessed that McLaren was taken aback when Norris was penalised for unsporting conduct after being judged to have created a gap before a double-stacked pitstop with team-mate Oscar Piastri.
A safety car brought out due to an accident involving George Russell allowed Norris, who was trailing the Australian, and other drivers to make cost-effective pitstops. Consequently, McLaren chose to simultaneously pit both cars on the same lap.
Rules clearly prohibit drivers from intentionally slowing down in the pitlane to form a gap when double stacking behind their team-mate.
Nevertheless, in this instance, Norris was cited for reducing speed on the track from the hairpin to the pit entrance, thereby delaying Alex Albon, who was closely trailing and also planning to pit.
The stewards, in their inquiry, paid attention to McLaren’s radio communication. Even though there wasn’t a clear instruction to Norris to reduce speed, it was concluded that the team provided enough information, including the gap time to Piastri, for Norris to comprehend his expected action.
Norris received instructions stating, “Lando, safety car, safety car. You are the second car, you are the second car. Oscar three.”
While the stewards had the discretion to use the driving unnecessarily slowly rule, they instead referenced the International Sporting Code, specifically the section regarding “any violation of the principles of fairness in competition, unsporting conduct or attempt to manipulate the competition results, in a manner opposed to sporting ethics.”
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, in the pits
Photo by: Mark Sutton / F1 Flow Images
The stewards decided to impose a five-second penalty on Norris. This penalty was consequential, dropping him from ninth to 13th in the final standings.
McLaren opines that the FIA using the term ‘unsporting behaviour’, typically seen in relation to black and white warning flags during races, indicates a potential new benchmark for double-stacking situations.
Stella remarked, “Post-race, we approached the stewards as we believed that such speeds under a safety car or even a virtual safety car should not be a legitimate violation.”
He added, “There’s a chance the stewards aim to establish new standards. We’re in ongoing discussions with them.
“We have faith in their judgement, but we are currently reassessing Lando’s behaviour as we are shocked that it resulted in a penalty.”
When asked about the precedent for the penalty, Stella responded, “A comprehensive review is required before forming a strong opinion. I’ll undertake that review.
“We comprehend the stewards’ perspective. We understand they might want to establish a new standard for driving under a safety car.
“If that’s their plan, we accept it. However, it’s regrettable that we are implicated in this new precedent.”
Stella mentioned that there was no recent indication that the FIA planned to address the double-stacking issue.
He commented, “To the best of my knowledge, no. But let me review thoroughly. During the race, it’s hard to dive into these details, especially when there’s still a race ongoing and we’re fighting for points.
“Moreover, I believe that if we could have overtaken instead of being obstructed, we could have overcome the five seconds.
“So, we’re now doing some of the groundwork that we couldn’t do during the race, specifically verifying the facts related to this incident.”