Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has warned that in-race penalties like the ones given out at the Austrian Grand Prix to Lando Norris and Sergio Perez could encourage drivers to play the rulebook in order to get rivals penalised.
Three in-race penalties were issued for racing incidents during Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix 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 controversial and saw Norris penalised five seconds for failing to leave a car’s width on the exit of Turn 4 while defending position from Perez following a Safety Car restart. Two five-second penalties were also issued to Perez for similar defending moves against Charles Leclerc later in the race, although Perez actually made contact with Leclerc in the first one at Turn 4 and the second took place further round the lap at Turn 6.
Although his driver lost out in the first incident with Norris, Horner believed it was a racing incident and should not have resulted in a penalty.
“The incident with Checo and Lando was racing,” he said. “If you go round the outside, you take the risk — particularly when you are not in a position where you are ahead [going into the corner].
“But I think the FIA, having awarded that penalty, then couldn’t not award a penalty for a very similar move with Charles [and Perez later in the race].
“These guys have raced in karting since when 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 bit harsh, and it does slightly go against the ‘let them race’ mantra we have been championing in recent years.”
Asked if the incidents set a precedent whereby drivers could position themselves on the outside of other cars knowing it would likely lead to a penalty for their rival if they didn’t back out, Horner said: “You don’t want the equivalent of footballers taking a dive. I think we need to avoid that.
“But it’s incredibly difficult and we talk about these things very often. It’s a difficult job for the race director [Michael Masi], but I do think that maybe today the incidents that we saw could have led to more racing incidents than being deserving of penalties.”
Horner said the penalties would likely be a topic of conversation at the next meeting between Masi, the team managers and drivers ahead of the British Grand Prix.
“I think in the relevant forum [it will be discussed] with both Michael and the drivers and the team managers, they will discuss that at length, I’m sure. They always discuss incidents at the previous race, so I’m sure they will discuss this at Silverstone.”