October 9, 2021 | News | No Comments
Frédéric Vasseur was furious in Russia with the stewards’ decision not to sanction McLaren’s Lando Norris for crossing the pit entry white line in Sochi, a breach of a “crystal clear rule” insisted the Alfa Romeo team boss.
Norris belated pitstop in the race’s rain-impacted finale was marked by a hectic moment for the McLaren charger when he slid wide upon his entry to the pitlane back onto the track, then collected himself and proceeded to cross back again to enter the pitlane.
The McLaren driver’s mishap which occurred just after he had lost the lead to Lewis Hamilton was frowned upon by the stewards. But while the misdemeanor was a clear breach of the sporting regulations, a fact even Norris admitted to after the race, the Briton was handed a mere reprimand.
The sanction drew the ire of Vasseur as a time penalty, which he believed was warranted in Norris’ case, would have elevated Kimi Raikkonen to P7 in the race’s final standings.
“I’m very sad for Lando, because he did a fantastic weekend in Sochi,” Vasseur told Motorsport.com.
“But then it’s not because you like the guy and he deserved to win that we have to change the rule. The rule is crystal clear, that if you cross the line, you have to be penalised.
“It was the case on tons of occasions, for 10 times less than this, with [Yuki] Tsunoda in Spielberg, with Raikkonen last year in Mugello. And exactly the same condition with Lewis in Hockenheim in 2019.”
In their post-race report, the Russian Grand Prix stewards justified the reprimand, insisting “the driver and the team candidly admitted the mistake and the fact that there was confusion within the team as to whether to stay out or to enter the pits and that led to the infringement”.
Vasseur admitted to being troubled by the stewards’ justification and interpretation of events.
“The question for me is that if we open the door to this kind of discussion each time that someone will put a wheel on the white line, we will try to find a good reason,” he explains. “And we will go to the stewards and explain and show the data, and it’s an endless discussion.
“I’m scared that the last couple of weekends we had far too many issues. I remember that in the quali in Monza a driver [Nikita Mazepin] blocked Giovinazzi, and he didn’t get penalised because the team didn’t inform him. It’s a joke.
“Nobody considered this point before. We did exactly the same in Monaco three years ago, Giovinazzi got penalised, and I didn’t complain because we f**ked up the lap of someone.
“It is tough to consider and to try to understand the reasons behind the mistake. It’s a new discussion.”
Read also – Alfa Romeo: Giovinazzi has an opportunity to save his seat
Vasseur also pointed to Fernando Alonso’s clever handling of the opening lap in Sochi, when the Alpine driver’s corner cutting at Turn 2 went unpunished.
“In Sochi we had a driver [Fernando Alonso] over the kerb at Turn 2, and he didn’t come back by the normal escape way,” explained the Alfa boss.
“And when we asked the race director he said it’s okay, they didn’t get an advantage. But it’s not the rule – if you are over the kerb, you have to go there!”
Alfa Romeo was also the victim of a curious call by the stewards earlier this year at Imola where Raikkonen was hit a 30-second penalty for not entering the pitlane after spinning before the rolling restart.
The Swiss outfit appealed the decision which dropped the Finn from P9 to P13 in the final results, but although the FIA admitted that there was “no precedence” for the incident, the punishment was upheld.
“I think that when they took the very tough decision against Kimi in Imola they didn’t consider that the start of the story came from the race director also,” says Vasseur.
“The rule is clear that the race director is supposed to signal the rolling start after several laps, not when you are in the pitlane.
“If you have a look at the last five or six events, we had controversy,” concluded the Frenchman.
“And it’s not good for the sport, it’s not good for my team, it’s not good for my shareholders. But first, we look stupid.”
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