EXPLAINED: 'Unsportsmanlike behaviour'? Why Lando Norris was handed a 5-second penalty in Montreal

MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JUNE 18: Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren looks on on the grid prior to

McLaren fans worldwide were upset to see their man Lando Norris handed a five-second time penalty midway through the Canadian Grand Prix for what the stewards deemed “unsportsmanlike behaviour”. But why did the penalty get handed down – and what did Norris have to say about it? Let’s dig into one of the big talking points in Montreal.

Russell’s crash sets the action in motion

Lap 12 of 70 of the Canadian Grand Prix, and George Russell has just wiped his Mercedes down the outside wall of the Turn 8-9 chicane, causing damage that would ultimately lead to him being retired from the race later on.

READ MORE: 6 Winners and 5 Losers from the Canadian Grand Prix — Who made all the right moves in Montreal?

With the pit stop window having been flung open by Pierre Gasly two laps earlier, and a number of drivers having followed the Frenchman into the pits, Norris – from P8 on the grid – had climbed to P6 when the Safety Car was called, behind his team mate Oscar Piastri, and with the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc right on his tail.

2023 Canadian Grand Prix: Russell hits the wall to trigger Safety Car in Montreal

As Norris and Leclerc sailed past the limping Mercedes of Russell and into the Turn 10 chicane, Norris received the call from his engineer to tell him the Safety Car had been deployed.

His engineer then adds: “Lando, Safety Car, Safety Car, you are the second car… we are box this lap” – Norris seemingly instructed that McLaren will be double stacking Piastri and himself.

Norris’s pace down Montreal’s back straight could then be described as, er, leisurely – and this is what the stewards picked up on when they handed down the Briton’s punishment, accusing Norris of driving deliberately slowly in order to create enough of a gap for McLaren to seamlessly change tyres on both his and Piastri’s MCL60s.

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What the stewards said…

Handing down Norris’s five-second penalty for “unsportsmanlike behaviour” at 1523 Montreal time – just over an hour after the infringement was carried out – the stewards cited Article 12.2.1.l of the International Sporting Code as they sanctioned the McLaren driver, writing: “The stewards reviewed positioning/marshalling system data, video, timing, telemetry, team radio and in-car video evidence.

“During the Safety Car period the driver [Norris] slowed to allow a gap to form between his team mate in Car 81 [Piastri] and him. In doing so he delayed the cars behind. There was a significant difference in speed between Car 4 and Car 81 between Turns 10 and 13 (approximately 50 km/h).

“Article 12.2.1.l of the ISC refers to ‘any infringement of the principles of fairness in competition, behaviour in an unsportsmanlike manner or attempt to influence the results of a competition, in a way that is contrary to sporting ethics’.”

2023 Canadian Grand Prix: Norris handed five second penalty for Safety Car offence

The upshot

Undeterred by the ruling – which Norris claimed was not explained to him during the race itself – Norris enjoyed a punchy remainder of the Canadian Grand Prix. Once the Safety Car had been brought in at the end of Lap 15, he immediately launched an attack down the inside of team mate Piastri at the Turn 10 chicane.

Norris would then be in the thick of the action late on, as he circulated in a train led by the seventh-placed Williams of Alex Albon.

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Lap 63 of 70 saw Norris pull off a peach of a pass on the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas (once more at Turn 10), with Norris spending the remainder of the race trying to get past the Alpine of Esteban Ocon – Norris launching an offensive at the very last corner of the very last lap on the Frenchman, but the move, alas, not coming off as Norris was forced to take to the run-off.

Crossing the line in P9, Norris’s penalty then dropped him to P13… leaving the Brit “confused” when he found out the cause of the penalty post-race…

MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JUNE 18: Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren looks on on the grid prior to

Norris ended up P13 after his penalty

What Norris said…

Norris argued – when facing the media after the race – that in slowing down and speeding up under the Safety Car, he was merely doing what his F1 rivals often do in similar situations, telling Sky Sports F1: “It doesn’t make sense to me. I was, what, three seconds, four seconds behind my delta, which everyone quite often is. It was too early to box for what we were planning to do, so I wasn’t planning to box in the first place, then I got a call just before the pit entry.

“I’m surprised… Of course, you go slow and you go quick, you speed up, you want to keep the temperature in the tyres, so everyone leaves gaps and open up gaps. It wasn’t like I was 10 seconds behind my delta so if it’s because of the delta difference, then probably most people should be given penalties for the last three years or four years!

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“So I’m a bit confused, but nothing I can do. I slowed down to try and warm up the tyres a bit and then as soon as [the team] told me to box, I pushed and tried to go in as fast as I can.”

With Norris classified 13th, and Piastri ending up P11, it meant that McLaren failed to score with either car for the fifth time in eight races this season – with the team likely to be a little sore after what was otherwise a plucky drive from Norris.

2023 Canadian Grand Prix: Norris and Ocon, and Stroll and Bottas battle to the finish line


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