Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has warned that in-race penalties such as those handed out to Lando Norris and Sergio Perez at the Austrian Grand Prix may encourage drivers to break the rules in order to penalise rivals.
During Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, three in-race penalties were issued, as well as two for Yuki Tsunoda crossing the white line on pit entry and one post-race penalty for a collision between Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel on the final lap.
The first in-race penalty was the most contentious, with Norris receiving a five-second penalty for failing to leave a car’s width on the exit of Turn 4 while defending position from Perez after a Safety Car restart. Two five-second penalties were also issued to Perez for similar defending moves against Charles Leclerc later in the race, despite the fact that Perez made contact with Leclerc in the first one at Turn 4 and the second one at Turn 6.
Despite the fact that his driver was disqualified in the first incident with Norris, Horner believed it was a racing incident that should not have resulted in a penalty.
“The incident involving Checo and Lando was racing,” he explained. “You take the risk if you go around the outside, especially if you’re not in a position where you’re ahead [going into the corner].”
“But I think the FIA couldn’t not award a penalty for a very similar move with Charles [and Perez later in the race] after awarding that penalty.”
“These guys have been racing karts since they were kids, and it happens; if you go around the outside, you take the risk, even if you are ahead.”
“So, I think the penalties were a little harsh, and it goes against the ‘let them race’ mantra we’ve been championing in recent years.”
When asked if the incidents set a precedent in which drivers could position themselves on the outside of other cars knowing it would almost certainly result in a penalty for their rival if they didn’t back out, Horner responded, “You don’t want the equivalent of footballers taking a dive.” That is something I believe we should avoid.
“But it’s extremely difficult, and we talk about it a lot.” It’s a difficult job for the race director [Michael Masi], but I believe that the incidents we witnessed today could have resulted in more racing incidents rather than penalties.”
Horner stated that the penalties would most likely be discussed at the next meeting between Masi, team managers, and drivers before the British Grand Prix.
“I think in the relevant forum [it will be discussed] with both Michael and the drivers and the team managers, and I’m sure they will go into great detail.” They always talk about incidents from the previous race, so I’m sure they’ll talk about this at Silverstone.”