Lando Norris thinks the rule that allows Formula One drivers a free pit-stop under red flags is “probably the worst ever invented by someone”. Max Verstappen temporarily benefitted from the rule during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday. At the first standing restart of the race, the Red Bull driver was able to resume on fresh tyres after rival Lewis Hamilton had pitted while under the safety car, which was then followed by the red flags.
It gave Verstappen an advantage because had the Dutchman been unable to swap for new compounds while the race was stopped, he would’ve eventually had to pit after the restart which would have given Hamilton a comfortable lead out in front.
As it happened, it did not matter because the race was red flagged a second time almost immediately after the first restart. Following the second restart, and after several clashes, Hamilton got past Verstappen on lap 43.
The Red Bull driver was hit with a five-second time penalty during the race and another 10-second sanction afterwards because of a wheel-to-wheel incident at Turn 1 and then a collision under braking, both involving race winner Hamilton.
Red flags wrecked Norris’ race in the Middle East as he, like Hamilton, dove into the pits. The McLaren driver eventually finished P10 after starting in P7. He had risen to P6 before Schumacher’s crash and then dropped to P14 after his pitstop.
And Norris is not a fan at all of the rule, even if it did not ultimately ruin the race of his fellow Briton Hamilton, saying to Sky Sports F1 post-race: “Probably the worst rule ever invented by someone, the red flag, being able to change tyres under a red flag.
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“We said it last year already, not to take anything away from Pierre [Gasly] because people would probably say that’s what I’m trying to do, but with their Monza race last year, Pierre got to change tyres for free.
“I don’t feel like it’s deserved in a way, it’s just complete luck, and it’s luck that doesn’t need to be given to someone and that’s pretty much what it is, just given to someone.
“Just ruined our race today, feels like you do so much just to get it all taken away. It sucks, because the team did a good job, I thought the car was pretty decent, but this crap rule ruins everything.
“If Max won this race, I don’t know what happened in the Turn 1 incident with them [Verstappen and Hamilton], but if Max won just because he got the free pit stop, then I feel like Mercedes would complain.
“I just feel like it’s such an unfair thing, they should still have to do that pit stop, it should be more just unlucky rather than getting lucky.”
In another interview, Norris said of the rule: “Too many discussions, we need to change it. They should give me access to the rulebook, the official PDF. I press edit, and I just erase it. Select it, right-click, delete.”
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How the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix drama unfolded
The inaugural race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit was twice red-flagged, the first time due to Mick Schumacher hitting the barriers on the outside of Turn 22 on lap 10.
Lewis Hamilton was among those to pit but Verstappen stayed out and was quickly rewarded with the red flags coming out on lap 13 and allowing him to change his tyres back at the pits.
After another delay, Hamilton restarted in second behind Alpine’s Esteban Ocon with Verstappen, who was in third because he was punished for his illegal overtake by race director Michael Masi.
Red Bull accepted that deal and their driver then instantly got back round past Hamilton at the third standing start, with both – and Ocon – having been three-wide into the first corner.
Verstappen moved into first but eventually the Briton quickly passed Ocon and caught up to him after several virtual safety cars and safety cars.
As Hamilton sought to take the lead of the race into Turn 1 on lap 37, both cars were forced to go off track and cut Turn 2 as Verstappen defended aggressively.
Hamilton labelled his rival “f****** crazy” over his radio and Verstappen was ordered to give the place back and later handed a five-second time penalty.
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However, as Verstappen slowed to let Hamilton pass on the same lap, the Mercedes collided with the back of the Red Bull as the Briton suffered damage.
Verstappen again slowed to let Hamilton pass at the same corner but once allowing the 36-year-old through, immediately regained the lead into the hairpin.
Hamilton ultimately passed with just seven laps remaining, when Verstappen also appeared to slow, and sealed a win that takes the pair to Abu Dhabi level on 369.5 points.
The younger of the two drivers tops the standings with nine wins to the seven-time champion’s eight this year.
Verstappen was later retrospectively hit with a 10-second penalty by the stewards for the Hamilton tangle, a statement insisting the Red Bull’s sudden braking “erratic and hence the predominant cause of the collision”.